4th Nov, 2016
Its Movember time again and, while this month offers a chance for men to channel their inner Tom Selleck, it's also an opportunity for an open discussion on male health.
Men can be far slower to seek help compared to women, particularly around the issue of fertility. For a man, a diagnosis of infertility should not be underestimated, affecting their sense of masculine identity and mental health.
As this month is all about promoting frank discussion in relation to male health, we asked Laboratory Manager at Waterstone Clinic, Dr Tim Dineen for a list of the crucial things you and your partner should know about male fertility.
1. Male infertility is actually quite common
"Women often feel solely responsible if they are unable to get pregnant. However, in almost one third of couples, the ‘male factor’ is the cause of fertility challenges. Male infertility can be due to low sperm numbers, poor motility, abnormalities in the structure or, in some severe cases, there simply is no sperm in the ejaculate (possibly due to a blockage in the reproductive tract).
However, even in situations when a man has no or practically no sperm cells in their semen, it is still possible for him to have his own biological child. Pioneering new treatments such as Microsurgical Testicular Sperm Extraction (Micro-TESE) can extract viable sperm cells from men whose sperm production is affected and to date.
2. Male infertility is often symptomless
There are a number of causes of male infertility, it may be congenital - a man can be born with it, acquired - developed through his life, or, it may be an unknown cause. Factors such as illnesses, lifestyle habits and injuries can all play a role in reducing fertility. However, what’s very significant for a couple is that male infertility can often have no symptoms. For this reason, it’s always a good idea for both you and your partner to assess your fertility before you start trying for a baby, to make sure everything is in order. Consider going for a self-referral fertility assessment like My Fertility Check. For the male, the assessment consists of a non-invasive semen analysis, which gives important insight into sperm quantity and quality.
3. Ejaculating regularly is good
There is much debate on whether regular ejaculation is beneficial or not. It is as it improves the quality of the sperm, clearing out ‘old sperm’ and helping encourage the testes to produce younger, fitter and healthier sperm. Prior to a semen analysis men are required to abstain from sexual intercourse and/or masturbation for ideally three days before the assessment. If the abstinence period is too short, there can be a low sperm count, while too long can affect sperm motility.
4. Lifestyle & diet habits can impact fertility
From smoking, to the Monday night pint, lifestyle habits can have a negative impact on the development of healthy sperm. It takes around 12 weeks for sperm to be produced, so if changes to lifestyle are made now, it will only manifest in three months’ time. Get your other half to start exercising in moderation, de-stress when they can, reduce caffeine and alcohol intake and quit smoking. The indications are that taking zinc, vitamin E, folic acid and selenium can improve sperm count and motility, while nuts, spinach and lentils are also a great addition to the diet.
5. Keep the testicles cool!
High temperatures are bad news for sperm. There are a number of small everyday things men can do to help their sperm count and prevent sperm from overheating. Avoid hot tubs, jacuzzis, and saunas, which can temporarily decrease sperm production. Holding a laptop on the lap can also affect sperm, as can tightly fitting briefs and bicycle shorts. Avoid sitting for long periods of time with your legs together, so if you have a desk job, get up and move about throughout the day. Also, avoid heated car seats for long journeys. While brief exposures to heat are okay, be sure to get up and move around frequently.