The joke I’ve been telling myself all day—and I’m man enough to admit that it’s a horrible joke— was this: “Just think of all the money we wasted on condoms!” Unable to sleep, I was up at 3:30 AM and so, I’ve been telling myself that joke for an awful long time now. Regrettably, it has done little to improve my mood. But, despite the clarification we were given today on yesterday’s news, I still cling to the notion that what I’m going through might be of some benefit to me or, if not to me, to someone else out there.
The news could have been worse, I suppose, but that’s not to say it was good. There appear to be three major things that the laboratory tests when conducting a semen analysis. During my analysis, all three of those tests came back as abnormal.
In a healthy man, it is expected that one will find a sperm count above twenty million per cc. My count was three million per cc.
In a healthy man, it is expected that the sperm’s motility percentage will exceed fifty percent. My sperm’s motility percentage was fourteen percent. That is, fourteen percent of the sperm in the specimen were actively swimming.
In a healthy man, it is expected that at least four percent of the sperm found will have the correct morphology and that there will be a number of “super” sperm, which would be used if in-vitro fertilization were necessary. My specimen had no sperm with the correct morphology and no “super” sperm.
There are several possible causes. A fever or illness three months ago might have affected the batch of sperm that reached maturity at the time I collected my specimen. That seems unlikely, given our four year history of infertility. Also, a simple check of this website will show that I was not sick or feverish at any time during the month of January.
It is possible that my wearing of briefs instead of boxers may have contributed to the poor results. Boxers are believed to keep the scrotum cooler and therefore to promote more normal sperm development. I would wear boxers if my penis didn’t get totally out of control in public places when given that much freedom. Regardless, it also seems unlikely that this one factor would contribute to such a tremendously poor specimen.
My money is on something called a varicocele (pronounced: var-uh-ko-seel). UrologyChannel.com defines the term:
Varicocele is a mass of enlarged veins that develops in the spermatic cord, which leads from the testicles (testes ) up through a passageway in the lower abdominal wall (systeminguinal canal) to the circulatory system. The spermatic cord is made up of blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, nerves, and the duct that carries sperm from the body (vas deferens). If the valves that regulate bloodflow from these veins become defective, blood does not circulate out of the testicles efficiently, which causes swelling in the veins above and behind the testicles…
...Because of the impaired circulation of blood created by a varicocele, the blood does not cool as it does normally. The increased temperature of the blood raises the temperature of the testes, which is believed to contribute to infertility, as heat can damage or destroy sperm. The increased temperature may also impede production of new, healthy sperm.
A varicocele can develop in either testicle, but in 85% of cases it develops in the left, due to the way the circulatory system is laid out. It just so happens that I do have a smallish vein-like lump near the rear of my left nut. And I do get the occasional dull ache there, which is another symptom. This could just be the hypochondriac in me speaking, but there is something wrong with me, so I don’t see the harm in trying to deduce the precise cause of my disorder.
As I go through this, I also think of myself as providing a valuable service. There are hundreds of blogs and journals out there telling the stories of women suffering from infertility. I have yet to find any that chronicle the stories of men. Perhaps this is because admitting our infirmities is an inherently un-male thing to do. I don’t know.
What I do know is that this is the only place, and the only manner in which I feel comfortable talking about this right now. I can collect my thoughts more than I could if this were a live conversation. I can calm myself here and be rational. So, though it feels weird that there are people out there, people close to me, finding out this strange, awful news about me, I am trying not to feel guilty about it. I’m trying not to feel guilty about anything.