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Don't jump into IVF - you might not need it.

I've always thought it odd that IVF is in the hands of gynaecologists.

Maybe it's because I'm a woman, but I feel that this arrangement often tends to ignore fertility problems in men.

In my opinion, at least we should be dealing with these issues first. It's preferable to speak with a man before asking a woman to commit to IVF, because discovering why you are unable to conceive can be a slog.

The fertility of a couple is the sum of their individual fertilities. But in one in five cases, the man is solely responsible.

Why, then, do we focus almost exclusively on women's problems? This approach makes no sense whatsoever.

Looking at a man's issues is infinitely easier than looking into a woman's - after all, they only have to produce a sperm sample.

Male infertility has many causes but a low sperm count is among the most common.

Treating conception difficulties in men is easier, cheaper, more successful and less invasive than with women.

In many cases, it can even be as straightforward as a simple operation.

Quitting smoking, losing weight, avoiding recreational drugs, cutting out booze, staying off caffeine and exercising more can increase sperm count to the normal level of five million per millilitre.

Treating a latent infection such as chlamydia can also really help, and so can a very easy procedure that removes varicose veins from the scrotum.

Given all this, it surely makes sense to look at men's bits before recommending that women embark on the IVF marathon.

And there's another bone of contention - as well as unfairly shining a light on female problems, many fertility clinics simply exist to carry out IVF. Going to one means there's a good chance you will end up on a regime, which can be bumpy, uncomfortable, expensive and, in some cases, totally unnecessary.

The current approach to tackling a low sperm count is a kind of IVF called ICSI, where a man's sperm is injected into an egg and then implanted into the womb.

But we want a fairer approach. Specialists in male infertility (andrologists) should be given an equal say in fertility clinics so that the gender bias is quickly corrected.

The take home message is, don't check into one of these places just because you think it might help you conceive. Instead, always see if your GP can refer you to an andrologist before you go.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 20, 2012
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