Sexual Life can lead to serious infertility.
Ureaplasma testing was not something I had ever heard about until I chanced upon it during an STI visit to an acupuncturist. My husband and I had been trying to conceive for 2.5 years (that’s 30 months or 884 days, and let’s not even go there in hours…), and despite numerous doctor appointments along the way and the acknowledgement that we were dealing with male factor infertility,
There was not one mention of this infection and the effect it can have on infertility.
My decision to visit an acupuncturist came from gearing up for our IVF with ICSI treatment that fertility STI Test doctors had recommended we be sent to. I underwent rigorous STD testing via the NHS: blood exams (numerous), ultrasounds, HSG, examination, hysteroscopy, laparoscopy, fibroid investigation, etc.… Of the back of all this, I had treatment for mild endometriosis, but STD Tests otherwise are clear. As the initial two blood tests had shown, my reproductive organs were in good working order, my hormones were doing their thing, and I had a good Ovarian reserve.
My husband, on the other hand, had two semen analyses, both of which showed we had a significant motility issue (5%/8% vs the ‘normal’>40%), amongst a few other marginally sub-optimal parameters. 2 sperm analyses were all the sampling he had.
The conclusion was drawn: IVF with ICSI was the only viable option available to us.
Great. After a long wait, it felt like there was an answer to our struggle. In gearing up for our first IVF appointment and having googled the sh*t out how we might be able to improve our chances of success with our 1 NHS-funded IVF cycle, I came across STI acupuncture, which is how I met the lovely and super-knowledgeable Justine Hankin.
Justine was familiar with our STD history and gave us some advice and information. It’s safe to say that the stop drinking advice went down like a lead balloon with my husband — particularly seeing as the doctors we had seen had dismissed it as a contributing factor. Did you know that you are 8 times more likely to conceive if your partner abstains from drinking in the week before conception?
Anyway, I digress.
One of the nuggets of information she shared was the existence of an infection called Ureaplasma. This can severely impact fertility. And that we should seriously consider undergoing regular exams. Not only can it affect the chances of natural conception, but it can also reduce the chances of IVF success. Unfortunately, this is not an exam the NHS conducts. So, we would have to arrange these STD STI tests privately.
Now, if you chose to Google ureaplasma testing, you would find articles suggesting it may play a part in infertility by affecting the sperm quality in men and increasing the chance of miscarriage in women. Still, the overwhelming verdict you would reach (as a layman) is that there is not much conclusive research, which appears to be pretty hard to treat.
I will get on to this later, but the online evidence leaves you feeling that it is quite the leap of faith to spend several hundred pounds on private Ureaplasma exams when 1) you might not even have the infection and 2) there is no conclusive evidence it affects fertility 3) its hard to treat even if you do have it.
It’s safe to say my husband was sceptical.
Who was this lady who sticks needles in people to give us advice that knowledgeable medical doctors had not even mentioned? It took some convincing, but he finally agreed to the exams.
The ureaplasma-tested infection was found in both of us. It is sexually transmitted, so this was hardly surprising.
Referrals finally lead us to Mr Jonas Ramey.
A medical doctor and widely acclaimed urologist. He not only advocated the Ureaplasma Tested infection as a significant contributing cause of sperm quality and male infertility but also shared his ambition to educate as many fertility doctors and GPs as he could to this effect. He also commented that he was conducting an NHS research study to discover conclusive evidence.
Sperm quality is an area with which the infection is closely linked. And other areas of infertility have also been linked to it. Investigations into recurrent pregnancy loss found Mycoplasma hominis and Ureaplasma urealyticum to be one of 3 major causes of miscarriage. Some evidence suggests that Ureaplasma urealyticum can lead to Bacteria vaginalis. Other bacteria, too, have been linked to causing endometriosis.
Another condition that can reduce fertility.
Mycoplasma hominid (other microplasma bacteria) and Ureaplasma urealyticum may be found in the cervix (40% — 80%) or in the vagina (21% — 53%) of women.
There is an 80% chance of antibiotics treating the STD-tested infection (far greater than the chances my googling had suggested).
The big question is, if all of this is so, why do we not know more about it and have more conclusive research?
The challenge is that there is also no appetite for privately funded research in this field. And government funding is finite and spread over so many areas of medicine. To be completely cynical about the private sector’s lack of funding. An STI infection can lead to reduced chances of IVF success, and with a failed IVF comes another IVF attempt. There is no incentive for big business fertility clinics to conduct research when it’s into something that is going to reduce the amount of business coming through their doors.
So, it continues to slip under the radar.
I feel quite passionate about getting the message out there. Every cycle of IVF costs in the region of £5,000. And with CCGs across the country cutting IVF funding for lack of funds. But you can’t help but feel that introducing an exam that costs less than £200 to complete. And for which simple anti-biotic treatment could avoid costly IVF. And could result in natural conception, something needs to be done to include it within routine infertility testing.
I am halfway through my 3-week antibiotic STD course. And I can’t help but feel the increased hope this brings us. While there are other areas of STD testing and treatment, we are still to undergo some. But I will continue to share our journey and hope we will achieve a positive outcome.