Sertoli-Only Condition: A Devastating Diagnosis

If you are reading this, you are probably a man (or the wife or girlfriend of a man) who has just received the worst news of his life. I've been there, brother. I've gotten that news.

In September 2005 I took a fertility test. I wasn't really worried about it. My wife and I had been trying for about a year, and I knew that perfectly fertile couples can often take longer than that to conceive. I thought I might be a bit low, not uncommon these days among men in their forties, for reasons that are poorly understood. But quite correctable. I was prepared for that.

I was not prepared for a sperm count of 0.

Several more tests and a testicular biopsy later, the diagnosis was confirmed. Complete Sertoli-only; nothing science can do for you.

It was hard, very hard. I'd always wanted to have children. I felt completely cut off not only from any sense of continuity in the future, continuity with the human race, but with people in the present. I've never felt more lonely in my life.

At that time it would have done me a lot of good to be able to talk with another man in the same situation. But one thing I discovered about all this is that there are virtually no infertility support groups for men. For women, lots; for couples, quite a few. But male infertility, and especially the absolute variety, like Sertoli-only, is apparently something most men just don't want to talk about.

But is that so? Are or we just too stunned, too sad—too strangely ashamed? And too uninformed? Until this happened to me, I'd had no idea that complete male infertility was even possible; and I'd had the strange misconception that most fertility problems are on the female side. In fact, as I later discovered, infertility is about equally divided between four scenarios: issues with the woman, issues with the man, issues with both partners, or—and this must be very, very hard—a situation in which the doctors can't find anything wrong with either partner, but conception does not occur.

I remember the despair. But I am here to tell you that, impossible as it may seem, the sense of loss can be resolved, and you can find real, true happiness as a father. My beautiful son is now 2 years old; when he calls me "Daddy!" with love and joy in his voice, can anyone tell me or him that I am not his father? I'll be forever grateful to the anonymous donor who made my little boy possible. But while biology is obviously an important part of fatherhood, it's really the least important part, compared to all the other parts. You probably can't understand this yet; I wouldn't have understood it back in 2005. I hope that you will have the chance to come to understand it.

The sense of loss in terms of fertility went away when my little boy was born. The sense of being incomplete, of my altered understanding of myself as a man—that's much harder. That doesn't go away.

That's part of why I'm starting this site—because I've been through this, and if you're going through it we might be able to help each other. I will eventually put up all kinds of informational links, all the infertility exchange boards and technical medical sites that helped me, and also increased my own sense of despair and confusion—I'd vaguely known there was an "infertility community" out there, but it never occurred to me that I was a member. And I couldn't have imagined how it would feel.

In the meantime, if you've just gotten that test back—or if you've been living with this for a while—or if you're facing a biopsy and would like to know what to expect—perhaps we should talk or email, if you think that would help. You can reach me at

info@sertolionly.org