Medical Practice

Conceiving a Baby – Fertility in Men with Spinal Cord Injuries

A Stethoscope on a TableI’m old enough to remember the good old days when doctors knew everything, and were mightily insulted if anyone suggested otherwise. I’m smart enough now to recognize that medicine has changed plenty since then, and that it’s patients who had better know as much as possible about their own medical needs. No way a modern doctor will, or can, bring the same focus to your situation that you can and must.

Along these lines, MSNBC has a recent article about a study published last fall in the professional journal Fertility and Sterility which found that fertility doctors often use expensive and invasive methods to collect sperm from men with spinal cord injuries instead of offering assisted non-surgical methods. The Fertility and Sterility authors, however, estimate that non-surgical collection methods could be effective for a whopping 95% of men seeking fertility assistance.

According to MSNBC, Nancy Brackett, one of the study authors

. . . wants doctors to try simple solutions before assuming they must use surgical means to retrieve sperm from the testes of injured men. In Brackett’s survey, some doctors said they lacked training or equipment, or were unfamiliar with the methods.

Yes, indeed; just what the Fertility and Sterility abstract says: “lack of familiarity, training, or equipment”. You can almost see how the first two could lead to the third.

The MSNBC article emphasizes the importance of men with SCI and their partners understanding that conceiving children may be possible for them:

Rehabilitation Institute [of Chicago] nurse practitioner Diane Rowles, who teaches a class called Sexuality and Fertility to patients, said sex is “a very private topic, a very personal topic.” But if medical staff members don’t educate spine injury patients about sex and fertility, they may assume the worst: that they’re not able to have a sex life or father children.

Don’t be counting on your docs, guys. Read up and take ’em on. You’ve got nothing to lose and maybe a rugrat or two to gain.

Stethoscope image from flikr.


Thinking of caring for a baby while using a wheelchair? Consider this.