How FABMs Can Help a Couple with Male Infertility to Conceive
There’s a lot to say about how beneficial fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs) can be for a couple trying to conceive: they’re inexpensive to learn, cause no harmful side effects, and allow the couple to work with—rather than against—the natural functions of a woman’s reproductive system.
But a couple struggling with infertility may not only be facing challenges with the female part of the equation. Renee M. Oakes, BA, FertilityCare Practitioner Intern (FCPI), regularly navigates this situation with her clients, and she’s lived it personally as well. She and her husband are both clinically infertile and have struggled with infertility and recurrent miscarriage over their 17 years of marriage. And yet with the help of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaProTechnology, today they have three healthy children.
Assessing the Situation
According to Oakes, 40% of the time, there is a male factor in a couple’s infertility. To be clear, “infertility” is the term used for a lack of conception after twelve months of regular, uninterrupted coitus. If a couple is concerned about infertility, the next step is to assess the patients’ situation. If the woman has been charting her cycle with a Fertility Awareness-Based Method, an informed doctor like Oakes can look at her charts to interpret observations of her cervical mucus to identify the various phases of the cycle, including whether or not she’s ovulating.
Health issues such as hormone deficiencies, thyroid dysfunction, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may be identified and treatment put into effect. Oakes says charting is “the greatest window that exists into [a woman’s] health” and “the most effective way a woman can be empowered to take control of her health and body.” In addition, she says, “I haven’t met a woman yet who hasn’t had some variety of health issue throughout her reproductive years,” but with Creighton, “the issue is identified quickly and treated long before a standard medical practice doctor would have identified the problem.”
If, after three cycles of fertility-focused intercourse, the couple has not conceived—that is, the couple makes sure to have intercourse during a fertile period of her cycle—doctors may recommend a seminal fluid analysis. Oakes explains, “the most effective way to collect semen for analysis is by a normal act of intercourse where a collection device is used. Studies have shown that the sperm count in the ejaculate is much higher when collected in this manner, and is a more accurate indication of his actual production.”
Before embarking on invasive and expensive fertility treatments for either partner, “so much can be done to effectively treat male infertility,” says Oakes. A Creighton instructor can direct a couple to supplements, medications, and outpatient procedures that can increase sperm count, as well as sperm’s morphology (size and shape) and motility (ability to move). Oakes cites an 85% success rate for the average NaProTechnology infertility treatment. “No other protocol comes close in effectiveness.” Still, she says, many standard medical practice doctors are inclined to simply refer to in-vitro fertilization (IVF), which she notes has “staggeringly low rates of full term delivery of a healthy infant, not to mention the very high cost, literally and emotionally, to the couple.”
For some men, enhancing fertility may be as simple as keeping electronics away from their genitalia (i.e. cell phones should not be kept in pants pockets and laptops should not be used on the lap), switching from briefs/boxer briefs to boxers, or avoiding toxins such as BPA/BPS, lead, mercury, and phthalates in the home, in food, and in personal products. Oakes recommends eating a healthy diet without processed foods, using glass or metal instead of plastic, using healthy cleaners in the home, eliminating artificial fragrance in personal products and cleaners, and looking out for the real cost of “convenience” products and food.
More than Sex
For a couple struggling to conceive, having sex can feel more like work than anything else. Carefully timing intercourse and then waiting days or weeks to take a pregnancy test can feel all-consuming and even lonely. It’s crucial to tend to more than the physical aspects of the relationship during this time. Because using FABMs require periods of abstinence for any couple, practitioners are astutely aware of the need to develop and nurture the emotional and sometimes spiritual dimensions of a couple’s relationship.
Jennifer Chirdo, a registered nurse who is trained in NaProTechnology, highlights FABM’s unique interest in helping men with the spiritual, emotional, and relationship aspects of infertility. In her practice, Oakes focuses on “communication, non-sexual physical contact, being open and honest, and their bond as a couple” as the key areas needing attention. “Today’s culture is so focused on the sexual relationship, that much of the [deeper parts of their relationship] is pushed aside, or seen as unimportant,” Chirdo says. But that’s not the case in any relationship. Oakes adds, “Almost all couples can use some help strengthening their marriage.”
Which is why it’s interesting to point out that FABMs have been proven to help marriages last. According to Oakes, “Couples who use [a FABM] and regularly attend worship services together have a less than 1% divorce rate,” which is a dramatic difference from the average marriage which has around a 40-50% divorce rate. And for what it’s worth, she also notes that couples who practice a FABM have been shown to have more, not less, sex than the average couple.
“If a couple is not conceiving, something is wrong with one or both of their health,” says Oakes. “We are made to procreate, and if that isn’t happening, something needs to be treated.” That treatment doesn’t need to be costly and it doesn’t need to incur harmful side effects. Observable biomarkers can point to effective solutions and better overall health for conception, pregnancy, and beyond.