Home Business Insights & Advice Are men being forgotten about in the world of fertility? A public health crisis

Are men being forgotten about in the world of fertility? A public health crisis

by Sarah Dunsby
4th Jun 24 12:47 pm

The number of couples with fertility problems seems to be steadily increasing, perhaps due to wider media coverage and a rise in general awareness. Many people incorrectly assume that infertility is a female issue (it can be hard to believe otherwise when the majority of articles centre on female fertility), but fertility issues occur in men, too. In fact, according to the BBC, male infertility makes up approximately half of all infertility cases. Despite this, it does seem like men have been forgotten about in the conversation surrounding fertility, not just by researchers, but by men themselves. The issue is, male fertility issues are increasing – sperm count is declining by around 2.6% each year and nobody is paying attention.

Let’s take a deep dive into this topic and uncover why men should be more aware when it comes to the subject of infertility.

Male fertility problems: Culturally invisible?

According to research by the University of Cambridge, male infertility is considered to be “culturally invisible”. Indeed, male infertility is not a very openly discussed topic and lacks dialogue, not only in the media, but between individuals. Many men who are infertile don’t even realise that they may have fertility issues, because they simply don’t understand or accept that problems with conceiving could be a result of issues within their own reproductive system.

In addition to this, due to centuries old presumptions and culturally-led misconceptions, women have been placed in the spotlight as the culprits behind fertility issues, leaving a gaping hole in research into male infertility, and a knowledge gap in the medical system. Much of the research and treatments available on the market, to this day, are geared towards solving female infertility, while male infertility is overlooked.

However, incomplete dialogue and insufficient diagnosis and treatment options are resulting in higher cases of infertility across the globe. A research by WHO showed that one in six people globally face infertility. And while there are numerous treatment options available for women, men are often sidelined.

But how does male fertility affect conception in the first place?

What can impact men’s fertility?

Stress

Male infertility, similar to female infertility, depends on a variety of factors. The most common and widely recognised factor is stress. While stress is inevitable in our lives, it significantly impairs the optimal functioning of our body in more ways than one. Stress also has a notable effect on sperm quality. A study published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology on lifestyle and fertility. shows that semen is negatively impacted by stress, experiencing more than 39% decrease in sperm concentration and 48% decrease in sperm motility. These are shocking figures for a couple trying to get pregnant, as it reduces their chances quite significantly.

Temperature

Additionally, according to another study in The British Journal of Urology (BJU) by Appell et al. about the effect of temperature on the motility and viability of sperm, extreme high and low temperatures both have an impact on the motility and quality of sperm.

It was noted that extreme temperatures negatively impact the sperm by affecting its motility and viability. For reference, in temperatures of four degrees celsius, the sperm showed poor motility, and on the other end of the scale, at 37 degrees celsius, the motionless sperm died off or suffered bacterial growth, leading to increased risk of infection. The study confirmed that this variation in temperature can significantly decrease the chances of getting pregnant. Experts suggest that a room temperature of around 20 degrees celsius is optimal for good sperm quality.

Lifestyle

But if you thought the list ends there, you’re incorrect. Another key piece in this puzzle is the lifestyle factors of the male partner. A person’s lifestyle directly influences their fertility levels, and this applies to men, as well as women. The use of addictive substances like alcohol, consumption of cigarettes, a diet high in processed foods, low activity levels, high stress and poor sleep, all contribute to the deterioration of semen quality.

So how can you or your partner ensure optimal fertility when trying for a baby? Time to find out.

How can men improve their fertility?

While it might seem like modern life is working against us, with many people working in high stress jobs, and with fast food so readily available, making small adjustments to your lifestyle can make a big difference to your fertility. A little discipline goes a long way – and when we say discipline, it doesn’t mean going on a strict diet and working out for hours at a time, but instead cutting back on the factors that may be inhibiting conception.

Cutting back on alcohol, cigarettes and any addictive substances should be the first step in your fertility journey, if you haven’t taken it already. The reason behind this has been demonstrated by a study published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology by Andrea Sansone et al. which shares the severe detrimental effects of alcohol, cigarettes and recreational drugs on male fertility levels. Not only this, these substances can also negatively impact other important areas of the body which may result in overall health decline.

Secondly, pay attention to your daily routine. Do you spend most of the day sitting down? Do you undertake less than 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week? Chances are you have a sedentary lifestyle. Including exercising in your daily routine will benefit your body in feeling more active, improve cardiovascular function, prevent chronic health conditions and, most importantly, improve sperm concentration by more than 43%, according to research published in the American Journal of Men’s Health by Paweł Jóźków et al. in 2017.

Next on the list is watching your diet. While it is okay to eat fast food occasionally, if your diet mostly comprises processed food items which have high sugar levels and are rich in chemicals instead of key nutrients, you should consider changing it. Switching to a Mediterranean diet has been shown to boost fertility levels, both for men and women. In addition to this, there are some special foods such as salmon, lentils and kale that can help you improve your chances of conception thanks to their nutritious properties.

If you have tried the above lifestyle adaptations, but have had no luck with conception after a year of trying, it is suggested to consult a professional. This is also the recommendation for those with chronic health conditions who may not be able to make these lifestyle changes for various reasons. A specialised fertility clinic in London can offer advanced diagnosis technology and methods, and fertility experts that can provide you with bespoke treatment. Based on your case history, your doctor may suggest you undergo a sperm assessment or a couple’s fertility check which can help diagnose the cause of infertility for you and your partner. Your doctor may further suggest suitable treatment options such as In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) or Intrauterine Insemination (IUI).

Your chances of getting pregnant, improved

In the world of fertility treatment, men are often overlooked due to limited literature and old cultural norms. However, with advancements in medicine, the dialogue surrounding fertility is no longer limited to women. As fertility is a problem for every sixth person in the world, the need for proper fertility treatment becomes more imperative, especially for men.

Simple lifestyle changes including cutting back on addictive substances, improving your diet and undertaking regular exercise are things you can do at home to improve your fertility. In addition, professional intervention in the form of sperm assessments, and advanced treatment options like IVF and IUI, further increase your chances of starting or expanding your family.

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