Thinking of having a sperm check? Here’s my experience.

After what felt like an awkward stand off with my GP who was clearly reluctant to offer me anything other than advice on conceiving, he finally buckled and referred me to a clinic to have a sperm test. I was told to collect a form and a leaflet from reception and phone the number on the front to book an appointment.

On arriving home, I had a quick browse through the leaflet, the front cover was bright pink with a large picture of a happy family with a young child. I do love how these extremely expensive clinics like to shove as many images of what you don’t have in your face in order to truly break you down before you go reaching into your pocket and passing them for what some people can be nearly an entire years wage. The clinic I was to attend was Cambridge IVF (Ipswich branch).

On arrival, I pulled into the car park and after a substantial wait managed to get a space shortly before discovering that the parking meters are the old type that only accept coins. I glanced at the sign that stated £25.00 fine for not displaying a ticket and decided  the price was fair enough to take the risk and not be late for my appointment. When I got to the reception desk I was shown to a room by a pleasant nurse who proceeded to explain the process. When I was done, all I needed to do was leave the pot in a tray and press a button, I could then leave the building without having to have any interaction with anybody at all, which suited me.

The room was creepy, small and dimly lit, with flashings of outdated home decor which made the room feel all the more sinister. The worst part was the chair, a sort of half armchair, half bed, made from black leather, it wasn’t something that I had never seen before but I could imagine it adorning some sleazy strip clubs back room or in the private quarters of some perv. I opted to merely perch on the edge and that’s as much as I will say about that. Placed on a small wooden shelf directly in front of the chair was an old hotel style TV sat directly on top of a DVD player, next to the DVD player was the remote, packaged inside a sandwich bag for hygiene. Needless to say, I didn’t opt for this option either although to this day I am curious as to what the film would have been, I’m imagining something 90’s but tame, who’s job is it to select the porn video that represents all men struggling to conceive? seriously, if that’s your job, get in touch!

In all, the entire experience from the moment I went to the GP with my wife was uncomfortable. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting and I appreciate it may be hard for those in charge of these processes to empathise but I haven’t been asked for feedback on my experience. It may be the case that the system is designed that way, to leave you alone afterwards but if you don’t ask if what you are doing is right then how will you ever improve?

A few weeks after my test I received the results by email. I don’t discourage any men from doing it, its essential that you do all you can for you and your partner and if that involves a parking ticket, a grubby chair/bed and some tame 90’s porn in a creepy room, just do it. It’s better to know than to spend every day wondering.

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1.75 Million UK men struggling to conceive, so why do you feel alone?

In the UK there are approximately 3.5 million couples struggling to conceive, a figure that only looks to increase as the population grows and funding and support for fertility treatment is cut.

So if there are so many other couples out there going through the exact same thing then how come so many men feel as though they’re going through it alone? It’s my opinion that we only have ourselves to blame.

Us men are notoriously bad communicators. Often I will arrive home from spending time with my best friend and my wife will ask what we talked about and 9 times out of 10 I genuinely don’t know. Its not just that we’re poor communicators though, its that the subject is difficult to bring up. What are we all so scared of? Is it that the subject can be embarrassing?

It goes without saying that something needs to change but will it change over night? absolutely not, it’s going to require baby steps. Men, lets start by deepening our conversations, one step at a time. Communication is a 2 way street and learning to listen is equally as important as learning to speak. Next time your with your friends, try and take the conversation further than football, you may end up learning something about the depth of your relationships. Be patient, you won’t look back.

More has to be done to support men in relationships that are struggling with fertility. More has to be done to support men in terms of mental health generally. The first step will be to talk about it, you’ll soon realise that you are not alone.

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