Having children is one of the greatest joys in life, and most men with spinal cord injuries are now able to have children thanks to exciting breakthroughs in fertility treatments that have become available in the last 17 years. While money may be a factor in becoming a father if you’re paralyzed, having children is now a possibility for paralyzed men.
Only up to 10% of men with spinal cord injuries are able to conceive naturally (if they use erection medication). For the rest who cannot, they are turning to the best two options available - penile vibrators and the surgical extraction of semen (then inseminated in an egg, then implanted in a female) known as IVF. While the latter option is the more expensive option of the two, it’s also the most exciting, since it allows men with complete injuries to father children of their own.
Unfortunately, most health insurance plans don’t cover either form of fertility treatment. But, even if you don’t have the funds, there may still be a chance. Consider holding a fundraiser—online fundraising/crowdfunding is a great idea—or consider taking out a medical loan to cover the costs. Many people with spinal cord injuries use a variety of these methods to pay for their fertility costs. Please read up on the two methods that men with SCI have to become fathers below.
Also known as vibrostimulation, stimulation of the penis can help some men with SCI ejaculate. A Danish company created the Ferticare Vibrator as a result. It’s fairly expensive at around $900, but it offers high vibration stimulation that can help some men with spinal cord injuries ejaculate. For some, it may be necessary to play around with the amplification and speed to see what works the best. This vibrator also has big buttons, making it easy for men with quadriplegia to use.
If you want to try one but don’t have a spare $900, you can also try a traditional penis vibrator (around $40) sold at most sex stores. When you use a penile vibrator on a high speed, be aware of the possibility of suffering side effects from Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD). If this happens, stop, wait 15-20 mins, then try again (you can get AD prevention medication if it becomes problematic). Also, remember that a large portion of men with SCI do not have success with this method, so don’t let it get you down if this does not work. There's still the next option.
Surgical Sperm Retrieval
If you've tried to conceive naturally at home using both erection medication and penile simulators with no success, your next option is to make an appointment with a SCI fertility doctor to discuss the possibility of sperm retrieval for IVF. The first step is to meet with a fertility doctor to test the quality of your sperm, which your SCI can affect. Many men with spinal cord injuries have sperm with low viability and motility.
The entire cost for one of these procedures, from the retrieval to the insemination, is between $8,000 - $10,000 a cycle. Many couples have to do this several times. When getting pregnant with IVF, do know that you are at a higher risk of having twins or triplets. The Miami Project for Paralysis is the leader in sperm retrieval of men with SCI. They have discovered that sperm motility is better when retrieved via stimulation.
Men with spinal cord injuries can now enjoy fertility after SCI thanks to the above treatment options. If you have the means, fathering a child of your own is more than possible. All it takes is some planning, a willing partner and a hefty splash of TLC.
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Written by Tiffiny CarlsonSince 1998, Tiffiny Carlson has been a prolific commentator on all things SCI in a number of prominent magazines, blogs and websites. Hailing from Minnesota, she was the SCI Columnist for New Mobility Magazine for 13 years and she currently works as the Executive Director of SPINALpedia, one of the leading websites for people with SCI to share videos and stories. She has been a C5-6 quadriplegic since a diving accident 24 years ago. Tiffiny has also been a fierce advocate for SCI research. In 2016, the Morton Paralysis Fund honored her for her work. While all SCI topics interest her, dating, love and the business of relationships have always been where her passion lies the most.
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