Find Orlando Family Magazine on Facebook! Follow Orlando Family Magazine on Twitter!

A Brave Step Toward Fatherhood

Since opening its doors in 2017 as the first Florida location of a nationally renowned network of fertility clinics, Reproductive Medicine Associates (RMA) in Lake Mary has assisted hundreds of patients in achieving their dreams of becoming parents. Naturally, when these happy couples end up delivering healthy babies, they are eager to share photos of their little bundles of joy with the medical team that helped make it happen. It is a sight of which Dr. George Patounakis never grows tired.

“We always appreciate it because every case is unique,” he says. “Each patient gets treated with a different protocol and everyone’s emotional journey is also unique, so it never gets old. I can’t tell you how many times we get pictures from patients who have gotten pregnant and have now delivered. It’s the most amazing thing, every single time.”

Of course, in order to reap the benefits of a network that has a success rate 20% higher than the national average, people struggling to conceive first must come forward to receive the help that is available. Dr. Patounakis—a reproductive endocrinologist who serves as medical director at RMA and is also an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Central Florida—explains that this often involves getting past the misconceptions about infertility, notably that the problem usually lies with the female.

In fact, when there is an identified reason for infertility in a couple trying to conceive, about 50% of the time it is attributed to male factor.

“From what I see on a day-to-day basis, many people think that it’s more likely on the female side, but it’s not. Half the time it’s the male side,” Dr. Patounakis says. “Many times that will lead to the men being more reluctant to come into the office and get tested. They may think, ‘It’s not my problem, my partner just can’t get pregnant.’ But that’s definitely the wrong type of thinking.”

Although Dr. Patounakis is slowly starting to see male infertility become less of a taboo subject and one that men are open to seeking medical assistance with, there are still many who feel awkward or insecure about taking the step of visiting RMA. He strongly encourages those in that group to put their trust in his team.

“If somebody’s partner is being evaluated for infertility because they’re having trouble conceiving, they should be coming in at that time to be evaluated also. Essentially, both male and female workups should be done simultaneously,” he says. “If a man is having issues with lower libido, difficulties maintaining an erection, if there’s a problem with the amount of volume of semen they’re producing, all of these are also reasons to be evaluated a little earlier. Additionally, if they have a history of surgery on their testicles or if they had trauma to the testicles early on in life, these are all reasons for being evaluated sooner than later.”

He cites published studies that point to sperm counts dropping for men in general over time. Nobody in the medical community is quite sure if this is due to environmental or lifestyle factors, and it is hard to say whether male infertility is on the rise. But steps that may help include making healthier choices, avoiding excessive drinking or smoking, and keeping diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure under control.

RMA can also provide all of the tools of assisted reproductive technology, such as ICSI, or intracytoplasmic sperm injection. 

“It’s been around for quite some time but that has essentially made it much easier to help couples that have extremely low sperm counts or very poor shape to the sperm,” he says. “It helps us select one sperm that is swimming well and looks normal to inject directly into the egg to fertilize it. That has changed the playing field for male factor infertility. 

“As IVF technology has improved over the years, the ability for us to help more and more couples has increased. Really, what it comes down to is the earlier someone can get to us when they’re starting to have a problem getting pregnant, the better chance they have. An overwhelming majority of couples that come to us will leave with a very favorable outcome.”

Seeing those favorable outcomes occur so frequently confirms for Dr. Patounakis that he chose the right specialty, and he is proud to be practicing with a national leader in fertility. “It’s a wonderful field to be in and I feel very honored to be part of these people’s lives and help them grow their families,” he says. “It’s a very unique experience in medicine to be doing something like this.”

RMA Florida

400 Colonial Center Parkway, Suite 150 | Lake Mary

(407) 804-9670