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The male infertility crisis and the first burden of fatherhood

20 Jul, 2021
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In July 2017, a meta-analysis of 185 studies showed that sperm counts in Western men had declined by 59.3% and sperm concentration had fallen by 52.4% over the last 40 years This data shook our understanding and approach to men’s fertility to its core. Until now, a man’s role in the journey to getting pregnant had always taken a backseat. If there was a problem with conception, the woman was evaluated first, leaving men’s health issues in the shadows. Not only have women traditionally been the first to seek treatment, but they’ve also been the ones to drive the fertility conversation. The data revealed in this meta-analysis proves that men are an equal partner on the journey to having a baby and need to be part of the conversation. More than a part of the conversation, they need to be the beginning of the conversation.

Since men have been observers of the fertility process instead of active participants for so long there is a big challenge: scarcity of resources for this unexpectedly urgent problem. When our team at Bastion Health started tackling this crisis in 2018, we realized that men had few options for testing, treatment, and education when it came to their own reproductive health. To better understand the fertility landscape and how to help, we sought to understand the journey most couples go on when they are having trouble conceiving.

The Status Quo

A quick google search of “fertility” or “fertility solutions” reveals a plethora of pregnancy and ovulation guides. These resources are helpful, but only address one side of the conception equation. Keep looking, but you will be hard-pressed to find support resources designed to support fathers-to-be on their journey. The reality is that historically the road to pregnancy has been one-sided.
In 2021, when couples are having trouble conceiving, the conversation often starts with women and their health care providers. Women tend to have a much closer relationship with their OB-GYNs than men do with their urologists. The foundation of trust women have with their OB-GYNs, and our societal norms result in most fertility journeys following the same path — starting with the woman.

  • Status Quo Step 1: The female partner goes to their healthcare provider with concerns about their fertility and the time it’s taking to get pregnant.
  • Status Quo Step 2: They get tested via an invasive procedure that is often not covered by insurance.
  • Status Quo Step 3: Only when they are cleared of any suspicions of infertility does their male partner get tested for infertility. Yes, semen analysis is an uncomfortable process for men too, but it’s less invasive than the test that female partners often undergo.

This process is time-consuming, expensive, and it ignores a man’s role in conception.

We’re Flipping the Conversation

This is where Bastion Health comes in. After extensive research, countless conversations with fertility experts, and many couples who had gone through this traditional route, we are ready to flip the fertility conversation and provide men with the resources they need. Bastion Health researched and developed a technology that men could use to measure their fertility from home. With this technology, we could help men flip that old and outdated journey on its head. What if men got tested first? What if men cut the lines and got tested before their partner?

As it stands, men are responsible for half of all cases of infertility, so it makes sense that they should get tested first. It is cheaper, more accessible, and much less invasive.

Battling the Stigma

We wanted to create a safe space where men who are struggling to start a family could come for treatment without fear of judgment. That’s why we created Bastion Health. To provide men with the support they need, from the comfort of home. Reproductive health is a sensitive topic for many men, and the stigma has been reinforced by society at large. The truth is that these problems are common and those who feel confused or marginalized are not alone. In over 90% of cases, infertility is not permanent, and can be improved to a high level with medication and medically approved lifestyle modifications, Bastion Health is here to provide support, and hope.

Bastion’s Solution

Bastion Health started out as a technology company in 2018. We knew that men needed an accessible testing solution for their fertility, so we created an at-home male fertility testing kit. This is how it works:

  1. A couple who is having trouble conceiving could get a kit from a fertility specialist, the pharmacy, or delivered straight to their door.
  2. The test is easy! Simply deposit your sample just as you would at a fertility clinic, and Bastion Health will handle the rest.
  3. Within 10–15 minutes our mobile app will give you a comprehensive overview of your fertility metrics and any potential complications with your reproductive health.

Following the development of our state-of-the-art testing kits, Bastion Health began planning the next big steps. With this solution men could get tested at the very start of their journey to fatherhood, however, they would still need effective solutions for treatment and education. After all, testing is the very first step in the treatment process.

We found that in most successful cases where an infertile man was able to conceive, treatment and education had played a significant role in his journey to parenthood.

We also partnered with Harvard Health Publication and top Urologists to build out an ecosystem that could be a solution for testing, treatment, and education. That solution rests in our Bastion Health app which is available now on iOS and Android.

Users can now download our app, get a free fertility consultation from an expert provider, and learn more about their reproductive health through our curated articles in collaboration with Harvard Health Publishing.

We are working to create a paradigm shift in how men and couples think about the fertility journey and the solutions that we have created at Bastion Health are a step towards that goal. We are giving men the tools they need to take charge of their health and challenge pre-existing notions that are not only harmful to them, but to the entire journey towards parenthood.

What Doctors are saying

It is no question that the state of men’s fertility is in crisis. After interviewing more than 70 urologists, we found that they all shared similar frustrations. The most marked comment being that many men only start caring about their fertility when it is too late. Dr. Cohen, one of our top urologists, has been a fertility expert for 40 years.

According to Dr. Cohen, “if patients were more proactive about their fertility, and got tested much earlier, they would not only know about issues sooner, but they will have a much higher chance of mitigating permanent damage to their ability to procreate.” For experts like Dr. Cohen, Bastion Health provides an opportunity to get patients onboard at the very start of the journey, and hopefully before it’s too late.

Khashayar Dashti
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