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Male Infertility Awareness

Mar 15, 2021 | IVF

Words by Chris Lawson | @ivfdadpodcast |

I’m Chris Lawson, in 2015 I started my journey into the world of IVF. Along the way there was heartache, pain, wacky diets, loss of faith and a lot of needles. It’s a rollercoaster ride and as I sat in the Fertility Clinic Waiting room many times, alone with my thoughts, I realized that men don’t talk about fertility much. That’s why I decided to start up –  I’ve recorded a podcast about my story and it features some of the experts we met along the way. Complete with advice, support and moneysaving tips.

So Trish, my wife now but girlfriend then found ourselves at a Fertility Show in Olympia. It was in Earls Court London in 2015, this is the place that can host business trade shows and exhibitions, but in 2015 I can honestly say that this was the first time a trade exhibition has changed my life. That afternoon, the next five years passed in front of my eyes in a few hours.  Everything I would be experiencing…
and everything we would be paying out for.

So it begins, you’re in this consulting room and you want to be there – but you also don’t. I’d quite like it sorted without the frank conversations and then the spotlight turns on me (the male partner) 50% of fertility issues are male related at least but there is limited awareness of this. Lets face it, all you are taught as a bloke at school is how NOT to get a girl pregnant.

My grandpa had my dad at 76, so I just assumed it was in the genes. Trish and I both left that consultation with a long list of tests to get done. Hers were all about FSH levels, that’s Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)  and Progesterone levels to check for ovulation. And I left with a sperm test referral form. The first of many.  It turned out my sperm weren’t in great shape – literally. And that can play with your mind  as you try to grapple with your identity as a wanna be dad, partner and man.

Then the real journey gets started…
The ups and downs of the drugs, needles, scans waiting to find out how many eggs we retrieve. Then comes the point when there is someone in the lab extracting my best performing sperm and injecting them straight into an egg  this is called ICSI. It’s a great work around for imperfect sperm. And  we have placed our bets.

Then we are  waiting to see  how many embryos we produce, hoping one will be lucky and turn into a pregnancy
There’s no guarantee of the outcome. This is Roulette, this is about odds, or luck or a bit of both. How do you work out how much to spend, how do you work out when enough is enough?  These were all issues that I tackle in the podcast. 

At times in the process I could feel helpless, frustrated and angry, you can’t move into solutions mode and you can’t carry the physical burdon. I wasn’t used to it!  I also saw my role as “Team Coach” to keep us positive and motivated, but at points I forgot about how I really felt – exhausted and in despair. A team coach also needs someone to talk too.  As the years went by, we looked at our lifestyle choices, went down many infertility black holes on the internet and  went through rounds and rounds of tests and had to find a way to keep the faith. Then Trish got pregnant, not with one but two embryos! And then we lost not just one but two embryos after a twin miscarriage. Loss is so much cruller because you have something that is taken away that you desperately hope for. Not much is written about miscarriages from a male perspective and I’ve made sure I’ve covered this in the podcast. Sadly, it’s an all too common occurrence in fertility treatment and it’s important to deal with this together and appreciate that it affects the man and the woman in different ways. It is terribly sad and needs to be talked about. 


At this point it was time to think of alternatives. Here are our options; carry on, change clinic, adoption, give up or look into donors. We put ourselves on the donor register and that took a lot of soul searching.  But we worked out , what we really wanted was a family and to be great parents. A bit of DNA code wasn’t going to change that for us. That said,  I will always remember Trish going “ I don’t care what medical opinion says, I’m not prepared to give up on my eggs yet.” And that’s why I love her.  We tried again and we tried again, whilst moving towards the top of the donor register at the same time.

But it is exhausting.
In October 2018 we were due to get married and we decided to put fertility treatment on hold, we needed to relax and enjoy the wedding and it’s an important point. You can’t let this take over your lives.  We came back fresh and ready to try again and did one more fresh round.  Amazing, I’m not 47 and Trish is 43 and we still have 4 embryos!  We send them off for genetic testing and they all come back negative. 


We are heartbroken
I think that’s it and the inevitability of needing to look for alternatives hits us. We go back to the doctor and decide to give up on the fresh embryo’s and she agrees. But says, well we still have one left in the freezer and you never know.  And you do, never know!  9 months later that miracle that is  Rosie was born against all the odds!I learnt a huge amount about myself during this process, 18 embryos in all. I also learnt how lonely this journey can be and wanted to do something about it. It’s a really tough race  and not everyone gets to their finish line.

I  appreciate that for many dreams don’t come true but for some they really do and that’s why I set up IVFDAD  give a male perspective. It’s not about the miracle that is Rosie, but the path to get to parent her.

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