The Silent Fertility Issue – Understanding Male Infertility

It takes two to make a baby, so why do many think it is only women who have fertility issues?

When it comes to conception and fertility, the focus has centered mainly on women. There is a considerable awareness of female fertility and if a couple is having difficulty in conceiving, the natural conclusion is to have the woman seek treatment. One of the reasons why there is a lot of focus on the female point of view is that fertilization occurs inside a woman and a lot of research has been performed in understanding female fertility. The same is not true for male fertility, which has not been studied as much and is a subject not discussed about as much. With a male factor accounting for 50 to 60 percent of infertile couple issues, increasing the awareness of male infertility and improving sperm health is important to solving fertility issues.

Men are less likely to be open about potential fertility problems. A survey by Nuffield Health in the UK showed 46 percent of men were afraid to discuss fertility issues with their doctors. There is an expectation that fertility is an issue for women when this may well not be the case. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) states that the male partner is likely to be the sole or contributing cause of couples’ failure to conceive in around 20 percent of cases and a contributing cause in an additional 40%, and this is a trend growing worldwide.

A recent study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem showed men in Western countries such as North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have seen a decline in sperm counts of between 50 to 60 percent since 1973. Although the research is not clear on the reasons for this decline, the unawareness of the male role in fertility and is certainly a factor.

It is clear that both society and men need to have a greater awareness of male fertility and there are a number of steps men can take to improve matters.

Giving your sperm a chance: How to improve male fertility

Lose weight – obesity creates a number of health risks and we are all aware that we should shed the pounds, however men may not be aware that being overweight may cause issues with fertility.

Stop Drinking and Smoking – Whereas there is nothing wrong in a drink or two, having too much alcohol can negatively affect semen quality and production. In a similar vein, it has been found that smoking cigarettes impairs sperm motility.

Cool Down – It is important that men keep themselves cool. A man’s testes cannot function properly unless they stay cooler than the rest of the body and if the temperature is above 98˚ the production of sperm stops. When you consider the seventy-day cycle for sperm production this can cause a reduction of sperm count for some months.

Overheating may be caused by spending too much time in a hot tub, working with a hot laptop on your lap or even by wearing overly tight briefs.  Wearing boxer shorts can allow the testes to keep cool.

Don’t leave it too late – Although women’s biological clocks are often the focus when it comes to discussing fertility, it should be noted that male fertility can also be affected by age. Often times, it seems we are required to put our career before family; however, the risk of infertility increases for both partners as time passes.

Male fertility gradually degrades when men reach their mid-30s. Although it is true that most men will produce sperm all their life, there is a greater risk after the age of 40 of passing on genetic abnormalities to their children, including autism.

The best thing you can do is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, reduce your junk food intake and eat more vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals required for effective cell growth while also performing gentle exercises and keeping your body cool allowing the testicles to do their job.

Of course, there could also be an underlying problem. If it is taking longer than normal to conceive, the time may be right to discuss your concerns with a fertility specialist. Ideally, you want to work with both a reproductive endocrinologist (a female fertility expert) and a reproductive urologist (a male fertility specialist) who can assess and treat the couple by looking at fertility from both male and female perspectives, thereby increasing the chances of conceiving successfully.