“The reality is a male component can be present in about 50 percent of cases,” said Samplaski, a urologist at USC’s Keck Medical Center.
She adds that many men are scared to find out their results because it can be embarrassing, making them feel like less of a man. In fact, there’s such a stigma that no guy was willing to share his experience about male infertility issues on camera.
“It’s a big part of being a man, having kids and fathering kids,” Samplaski said.
While men may not talk about it with each other, Samplaski notices a change…at least in her practice. She’s seeing a growing number of guys getting tested proactively.
“There’s a lot of guys out there who just want to know that when the time comes, that they’re going to be ready,” she said. “Most couples know somebody who has struggled with infertility.”
She feels it’s not the taboo topic it once was, and in five percent of cases, fertility testing can even reveal some life-saving information.
“You’ll uncover something that is sort of a bigger health problem, so a thyroid problem, diabetes, a testes tumor,” she said.
Over the past few decades, studies show there’s been a gradual decline in sperm counts, but scientists can’t agree on what’s behind the troubling trend.
Samplaski says she still sees a lot of guys using steroids. She also recommends avoiding hot tubs or saunas, although riding bikes is OK.
“The jury is still out on the underwear. If it was my family member, I would not buy special underwear,”“The jury is still out on the underwear. If it was my family member, I would not buy special underwear,” she said, referring to whether tight underwear actually reduces sperm count.
And for those men who have been putting off having children, be aware that doctors are learning guys do have some kind of biological clock.
“There is a gentle decline in male fertility with time, and we think that starts somewhere in the mid-40s,” Samplaski said.
But she says there are a wide-range of treatments available to achieve a pregnancy. It’s personal work she continues to find incredibly rewarding.
“You get close to people. You hear their stories. You hear their struggles, so it’s so meaningful,” Samplaski said.