Intimacy After War Injury
You appreciate a nice cold glass of water. And you rely on a steady flow of electricity to your home and work. Many of us also admire how modern technology keeps us not only engaged and productive but also organized. But when is the last time you reflected upon the most precious natural resource in our country: Freedom! I think about this frequently and certainly every time I work with military families.
Costs of War
Estimates are that 6,900 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan since the Iraq War began in 2003. As a consequence, scores of families will fail to form or grow — we’re talking about infertility in its most disastrous and absolute form.
An additional 30,000 troops have been injured during these three military operations, and about 1 of every 20 injuries affected the male reproductive tract, causing near absolute infertility. Over a 12-year period ending in 2013, 1,367 men in our military had genital injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a recent military report. The most common injuries were to the scrotum, testicles and penis. Over 10% of men lost one or both testicles from these injuries. And, over 94% of men injured were in peak reproductive age of 35 years or younger. It’s hard to stay fertile when parts down there are missing or not working anymore.
Keeping the Jewels Safe
Thankfully, there are systems in place to protect not only the lives, but the fertility of our troops at war. The most notable of these are:
- Sperm banking before deployment. This has long been encouraged by the Pentagon and now they are thinking about actually funding it.
- Pelvic armor. Given the abundance of ground-level mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the military now uses Kevlar underpants. There’s the PUG (protective undergarment) on the inside and a thicker POG (protective outer garment) worn over combat trousers.
- Funding infertility care. In 2016, a bill passed in Congress that provides infertility treatment (up to 3 cycles of IVF) to disabled veterans.
- There are some very special fertility doctors doing amazing work to preserve fertility in cases of catastrophic genital injuries.
Our servicemen not only put their own lives on the line, they also indirectly place their future families on that same line. As the award-winning American writer Cynthia Ozick once said, “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” It is absolutely my honor to tend to the fertility needs of our military.