Path to Paternity: surviving a long-lettered male issue

That Tuesday morning was not the first time KekeliAgbozo (real name withheld) had to take matters of sexual pleasure into his own hands, literally. 

However, this time, the ball game was different as the act of stroking his member till climax had been ordered by a medical doctor and it was to be done in a private room in an Accra-based hospital.

“Just so we’re clear, you have to produce some semen into the container I have given you, for analysis. There are magazines and lubricants on the table. Call me when you’re done”, the nurse said and left the room.

That was how through a semen analysis, Mr Agbozo, the 40-year old IT consultant discovered that his five-year-old childless marriage was a result of a long lettered medical condition called asthenozoospermia or asthenospermia.

Asthenozoospermia

This is a male infertility condition where sperms produced have low motility— the ability to move forward swiftly and in a straight line— thereby reducing its chances of successfully fertilising the egg in the female reproductive system.

A man is said to be suffering from the medical condition when doctors determine that less than about 32 to 40 per cent of the produced sperm are progressively motile.

An urologist at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr Bernard Toboh, explains that sperm motility is a critical factor in fertilisation —more vital than sperm count— because only one strong sperm is needed to fertilise the egg and even when the sperm count is low, the motility could be boosted to do the job.

He said every spermatozoa consists of three parts; the head to aid effortless movement; the middle piece, made up of cells that energises the third part which is the tail, to propel the sperm forward.

“If you have a sperm which is abnormally shaped with a round or twin head or the middle piece is short and stunted or the tail is short, divided or unusually coiled, it will not have a very good movement and that is poor sperm motility.”

According to Dr Toboh, out of the 50 per cent of infertility issues attributed to men, low motility is most common and constitutes almost half of the cases, noting that there was a global reduction in sperm motility potentially due to factors including exposure to chemicals.

Causes

He said high temperature within the scrotum was a major cause of poor motility given that the scrotum temperature was usually four to five degrees less than the body temperature.

To this end, he said, testes which are higher up or closer to the body affected sperm motility likewise abnormally enlarged veins in the male reproductive system.

Lifestyle choices like wearing tight or multiple underpants especially dark coloured ones which do not allow circulation of air; working in an environment with high temperature like factory, bakery, smoking and chronic alcoholism and exposure to radiation and mercury (used in illegal mining) without adequate protection, could lead to the condition.

He also mentioned that heat from laptops when placed on laps, infection of the reproductive system and sitting in hot water in Jacuzzis or having steam baths/sauna are ways sperm motility could be affected.

“Radiation from phones especially when it is on low battery can cause the condition. So we advise that men should not keep phones in their pockets or hang it near their groins”, the medical practitioner said.

Agbozo’s plight 

Mr Agbozo did not visit the hospital to primarily check his fertility status. He had rather gone there with an issue with the three letter word; sex, only to be hit with the 17 letter word condition.

“I was shocked when the doctor requested the test. I nearly did not return to the laboratory to do the test because I found it humiliating but upon introspection, I realised that it was better than the humiliation that comes with not having a child”, he told the Ghanaian Times.

Throughout the five years of marriage , he had not had cause to blame his wife for their situation because various tests had proved she was fertile and he, based on his early morning erections and sexual prowess , had given himself a clean bill of health until he fell some shortcomings  hence the visit to the hospital.

The half decade marriage has not been without problems. Mr Agbozo tells the Ghanaian Times that almost every month, he receives at least one unsolicited recommendation of medical facilities, herbalists and men of God from some family members, friends or associates.

“I have blocked some of them on social media because of the comments they post when I post pictures of my wife and I. They have become CCTV cameras monitoring our movements, he said.

Mr Agbozo recalled that the second and third years of their marriage were most difficult. They were desperate because their friends, who married several months after them, had given birth. 

“The unintended innuendos or stray bullets we received at weddings and naming ceremonies were constant reminders of our condition. My wife did pregnancy tests almost each month only to be disappointed. 

“I nearly slipped into depression. I became addicted to watching baby videos on social media to escape my realities. I even drafted letters to my future children, telling them how we could not wait to have them”, he said.

According to Mr Agbozo, the medical examination and the counselling he received after his second semen examination which showed that sperm boosters given to him worked, made him realise the need to take life one day at a time. 

Treatment

Dr Toboh said after 12 months of regular sexual intercourse and no pregnancy, semen analysis, and other examinations are conducted to confirm if all factors to aid pregnancy were present including sperm motility.

“Sometimes the problem is connected to the patient’s work or lifestyle. So when the lifestyle is changed, the motility improves”, he said.

If there is infection in the prostate Dr Toboh said it is treated, adding that while surgery is done in case of enlarged veins to aid alternate flow of blood, sperm boosters could be prescribed to improve motility.

“If all conservative methodology is tried and they do not work, assisted fertilisation is used.  On the other hand, if the parameters are correct with both partners and there is still no child birth, they are reassured to continue trying having regular sex”, he said.

Dr Toboh advised men to muster the courage to seek medical attention early   so their problems would be resolved timely and urged their wives to use their innate qualities as women to convince their husbands to get checked so they (women) do not bear the full brunt of their childlessness.

He enjoined families and friends to support instead of stigmatising childless couples and admonished partners to stick together in their waiting period, protect each other from external attacks and guard against blame game.

“I have survived the sperm motility issue but I am still on the path to paternity, hoping against hope that one day a bundle of joy will arrive. And oh what a happy day it will be”, Mr Agbozo said with tears gathering in his eyes.

BY JONATHAN DONKOR

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