When fertility tests showed that Laura and Matt were never going to become parents naturally due to a male factor issue, it came as a big shock to Matt who had not considered fertility to be a man’s problem.
“When the results first came back I have to admit it hurt a lot,” says Matt, aged 38, “I got quite down about it. I think that most men just think that it is a ‘given’ that they can have kids with no issue.”
“I felt that I had let Laura down as she wanted a child so much and it should be the one thing, I would be able to do. It did make me feel, stupidly, less of a man.”
Fertility also a man’s problem
The couple, who met on a dating website, had first started trying for a baby shortly after they got married. When nothing had happened after six months Laura started tracking her ovulation and making lifestyle changes in the hope that would help them conceive.
“Laura had been looking at what she could change and what to do differently, trying to get fit and lose weight,” says Matt.
The couple went to their GP and were referred immediately to the local hospital for tests – and when the results came back they were both ‘stunned’ to be told that the reason for their infertility lay with Matt not Laura.
Making lifestyle changes can sometimes boost a man’s natural fertility but Matt had already made some adjustments. “I had been a heavy smoker but had given it up some years ago and I had also lost a lot of weight,” says Matt.
The couple were referred for NHS-funded IVF treatment.
Only one good sperm needed for IVF with ICSI
IVF involves stimulating the woman’s ovaries with medication so they produce many mature eggs at the same time. The eggs are then collected and mixed with the partner’s sperm. If there are only a few high quality sperm available, then it is often recommended that IntraCytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is used, which involves a single sperm being selected and injected directly into the egg.
When Bourn Hall’s first ICSI baby was born in 1995, it heralded a breakthrough in the treatment of male infertility, and the clinic has excellent success rates with this treatment.
Matt and Laura had NHS-funded IVF with ICSI at Bourn Hall.
Coping with treatment
Laura fell pregnant on the first two cycles but sadly miscarried both times.
“Matt was devastated, he had always wanted to be a dad. He also had the extra guilt and no one to talk to,” says Laura.
“Everyone focuses on the woman throughout so when we had the miscarriages everyone was being very lovely and looking after me but it was quite shocking that no one asked how he was.
“It was a really tough time for us. He didn’t really want to talk about it, was quite depressed.”
Matt now recognises that this had a damaging impact:
“My nature isn’t to worry about what people think, but I just couldn’t bring myself to open up about it with anyone,” he says. “I am not going to lie, it really took its toll on me and my close friends could see that I had changed.
“Once I did start talking to close friends and family it really helped. Now, I don’t think there is anything to be ashamed of or embarrassed about,” he says.
“When IVF now comes up in conversation I will openly admit ‘the issue’ and people are normally quite taken aback. The assumption is often that infertility is a ‘woman’s issue’ but it is also a man’s problem.”
The third attempt was successful and the couple’s daughter Elle was born in April 2019. In February 2022 they returned for a further frozen embryo transfer, and they are now expecting a second baby in November.