In her best selling novel Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel writes about Anne Boleyn’s inability to conceive a male heir for king Henry VIII. The main character Thomas Cromwell remarks thus:-
Have you ever observed that when a man gets a son he takes all the credit, and when he gets a daughter he blames his wife?
Almost 500 years later it is still a common occurence for the female partner to pick up the phone and book in for fertility acupuncture treatment. It is a truly modern couple where the male partner makes the first move.
Thomas Cromwell continues:-
And if they do not breed at all, we say it is because her womb is barren. We do not say it is because his seed is bad.
It’s the same in the gospels. The stony ground gets the blame – responds the other character.
It is too often the case that in modern fertility medicine, the female partner is offered a battery of investigations – blood tests to measure hormones at various phases of her cycle, antibody tests, ultrasound scans, and biopsies. The man on the other hand gives a sperm sample which is likely to be judged largely on the basis of whether the sperm can swim in a straight line or not!
In Chinese medicine there is a saying that women are ten times more complicated than men. Gender stereotypes aside, this may go some way to explain why women have historically been given more tests than men, but fortunately for the male modern science is beginning to redress the balance.
According to one leading analysis lab – while a conventional semen analysis test will reveal basic problems – like not enough sperm – the quality of the sperm can only be assessed by looking at its DNA. We have now shown that up to 80% of couples with unexplained infertility have problems in their sperm DNA.
This is frankly shocking! According to them, such issues can often be resolved through lifestyle changes. As a modern society we therefore need to recognise that the problem isn’t always with the ‘stony ground’ and act accordingly.
Men – it’s in your hands.