Women opting for expensive fertility treatment when the real issue may be their man


Women opting for expensive fertility treatment when the real issue may be their man

Women are wasting their money on expensive fertility treatment when the real problem may be their partner's sperm, warns expert – as figures show male infertility has DOUBLED in a decade

It comes as recent reports have revealed sperm counts in men worldwide have declined by half over the past 50 years.  

As many as one in seven couples has difficulty conceiving, according to the NHS.

Poor semen quality is now either the sole cause or a contributing factor in 50 per cent of cases, according to research in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology.

Yet too often, it is the woman who assumes she is the one with an infertility issue and rushes into treatment -  one cycle of private IVF can cost up to £5,000 or more.

Dr Catherine Hood, a Harley Street consultant in psychosexual medicine, said: 'Women are often quick to blame themselves if they don't get pregnant, and overlook the fact that it is increasingly likely that the problem lies with their partner.'

Furthermore, experts warn that fertility services for men has long lagged behind those for women in the UK.

Fewer than 5 per cent of UK fertility clinics hold accreditation confirming they comply with World Health Organisation guidelines on semen analysis, according to Dr Hood.

'In my opinion, too many couples are considering in-vitro fertilisation before exploring simpler, and far less expensive therapies, which address poor sperm counts or motility,' she added.

Call for better treatments for men

In research to be presented at the London Fertility Show, Dr Hood will call for an urgent review of treatment guidelines to address this rise in male infertility and alert couples to the efficacy of low-cost alternatives to female-focused IVF.

She believes some couples could save thousands of pounds by exploring less invasive infertility treatments such as intracervical insemination (ICI) – the use of a cervical cap to hold sperm close to the cervix — and intrauterine insemination (IUI), before resorting to IVF.

Dr Hood said: 'In clinical trials, ICI has a success rate of around 20 per cent and can be performed in a home setting, which is far less stressful than attending a hospital or fertility clinic. 

'This is important because we know that women who are stressed are less likely to conceive.'

Cheaper DIY options 

However a study showed that only 9 per cent of couples who were having trouble conceiving were aware of these DIY conception aids, such as the Stork and other home insemination devices.

By contrast, 57 per cent of women struggling to start a family said they would consider IVF, even though 61 per cent admitted they were worried about the cost.

Current guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) overlooks ICI, and advises against IUI, in favour of expensive IVF, which has a success rate of only two to 33 per cent, depending on the woman's age.

It also says the NHS should offer up to three cycles of IVF to women under 40 who have not conceived after two years of trying for a baby – advice which is flouted by 87 per cent of the Clinical Commissioning Groups which provide health services as they strive to find ways to cut their overall budgets.

Dr Hood said: 'NHS rationing means that 60 per cent of IVF treatment is privately funded, and with 50,000 women seeking treatment every year, fertility treatment has become a very big business.

'There is not enough awareness of cheaper and successful alternative treatments. It makes sense to try these first.'

Read more about DIY home insemination