For so long we have placed the onus of responsibility regarding fertility on women which has been consolidated by a fragmented and patriarchal medical system.
We are taught to bear the burden of blame for not being able to conceive. Either we’re too fat, too thin. Our thyroid is up or it’s down. Our tubes are blocked. We’re not ovulating according to “the norm”. We have irregular cycles. We have immune dysfunction making it inhospitable for sperm to survive. We may have PCOS or fibroids. We have endometriosis. We have high oestrogen, low progesterone, high testosterone. We have ageing ovaries…
And the list goes on.
But here’s the stark reality and uncomfortable truth. It’s not just you.
1 in 6 couple have difficulty trying to conceive
50% of cases the problem is sperm related
Mens health isn’t considered to be a contributing problem in sub-fertility when they have already had one child in the past – regardless of recurrent miscarriages with a new partner, and is therefore never routinely checked.
Men only have a singular sperm sample checked, rarely repeated and never routinely offered a hormone profile or physical examination.
It takes 90 days for sperm to mature and the health is directly influenced by diet and lifestyle.
What does this mean?
Men need better support and guidance with fertility. From adequate testing at the right time to clear and concise information about how to support sperm health.
Exploring the reality of male sub-fertility + the factors associated with poor sperm health
In the UK, around 1 in 6 couples have difficulty trying to conceive. But what may come as a surprise for many is that around half of all sub-fertility cases are male factor. This isn’t a new problem but rather it has never been identified or explored clinically, until very recently.
For this reason, it’s vital that any couple trying to conceive choose to focus as much on the man as the woman.
So you’ve been to the GP and they’ve finally referred you on for further investigations, and you/your partner have been offered a standard semen analysis which looks at 3 important issues:
1. Concentration/Volume (Number of sperm)
2. Motility (are they swimming?)
3. Morphology (are they the right shape?)
What does this mean?
Sperm production is a constant cycle and it takes around 100 days for sperm to mature. Any semen analysis result will only ever be a snapshot of the health of the man 100 days prior to the test and will only show certain parameters. If you’re a man who wants to enhance his fertility, you need to start working on improving your sperm health at least 3 months before you start trying to conceive.
The good news is that sperm health, unless there are underlying medical issues, is relatively easy to influence. Below are the primary reasons why sperm may be sub-optimal based on diet and lifestyle, or rather the external factors that can negatively impact your internal environment.
- Oxidative Stress
- Tobacco + Recreational Drugs
- Mobile Phones
Please download the Life + Lemons eBook which explores these factors of male fertility in greater depth and gives you our top tips to help address these issues simply, naturally and sustainably. (Link to download ebook at the bottom of this article)
But what if you’re fit, healthy and bathing every cell in your body with the fertile soil it requires for conception?
This is when we must look at medical factors related to sub-fertility. These are most commonly:
- High Oxidative stress
- Azoospermia (no sperm) – Obstructive / non obstructive
- Hormonal imbalance
- Retrograde ejaculation (rare)
- Lack of Vas Deferens
- Anti -Sperm antibodies
- Dormant infection
- HBA sperm binding
Sadly, once a man has a sperm sample result, regardless of whether it’s good or bad, not a lot else happens. If a couple do go for IVF treatment, some clinics will run further tests, whilst some will just continue on to treatment, knowing that as long as there is some sperm they can do something.
A standard semen analysis is a good starting point for men, but there is much more that can and should be investigated. Some clinics are now starting to offer Sperm DNA Fragmentation testing, which looks at the actual DNA damage being done to the sperm. This is a far more comprehensive test which will actually identify the true quality of the sperm.
High levels of DNA fragmentation are often behind recurrent miscarriages and failed IVF cycles so it’s important that this gets investigated thoroughly. Further investigations also need to look out for any dormant infections or other medical issues which could also be causing issues despite a lack of symptoms.
Any man with a poor semen analysis or high DNA fragmentation would be strongly advised to see a Urologist in order to have further in depth investigations.