When Infertility Becomes A “Guy Thing”
How men can combat declining fertility trends.
When infertility strikes, it can be a massive source of stress for couples, and many are too quick to assume it’s a female issue.
Alarmingly, the average sperm count for adult males has decreased by 50 percent since 1938 and is currently declining at a rate of 2 percent each year, according to a study in the British Medical Journal. Stress, exposure to environmental toxins and diets deficient in key vitamins and minerals are likely to blame.
“It’s a fact that one in six couples will have difficulty conceiving, but many aren’t aware that almost half the time, it’s the male who is the cause of the problem,” said fertility expert, Dr. Amos Grunebaum. “When couples address this issue, it’s been my experience that the woman is the first to see a specialist to determine her fertility status. It’s a little more difficult to get the man on board with doing the same thing. Some men just don’t want to acknowledge that they may have a fertility problem. As such, they are more reluctant to get tested and I have seen a lot of men delay seeing a specialist or even avoid it completely.”
Unfortunately, Dr. Grunebaum can confirm these disturbing statistics as he has seen sperm counts decline in his over 25 years of practice.“From my experience, low sperm count is one of the primary reasons that couples have a difficult time conceiving,” said Dr. Grunebaum, also a medical health advisor for Fairhaven Health. “Quite simply, the fewer sperm a man produces, the lower the likelihood that one will successfully fertilize the egg.”
However, according to Dr. Grunebaum, there are a variety of ways men can help improve their reproductive health.
“A diet rich in antioxidants such as Vitamins C, E, and Zinc can go a long way in improving sperm health. Exercising regularly plus limiting caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco intake can also help a great deal,” he added.
While low sperm count is known to be a major cause of infertility, for many men, visiting a doctor or clinic to have a sperm analysis done can be a daunting task.
“The testing process itself can be a little embarrassing and even more so when faced with the prospect of exposing their condition to the doctor, nurse, or office staff,” he added.
“There are many benefits from determining early on if sperm count is a problem for you,” Dr. Grunebaum said. “The sooner an issue is pinpointed, the sooner proper treatment can be started. Treatments for male infertility typically include lifestyle changes, vitamin, mineral or herbal supplementation, prescription medication, or even surgical procedures. But before any of that can begin, the couple has to be able to communicate and agree to take action.”
CARING FOR ONE’S FERTILITY
For dads and dads-to-be, there are several ways to keep your fertility in check. The first step is to be aware of your overall health and consult a doctor to make sure your sperm count is well in the general average, which is 120 to 350 million per cubic meter. If your sperm count falls short, take a closer look at your lifestyle. Some factors such as smoking and alcohol contribute to infertility. Smoking causes blood vessels to narrow, thereby hindering the blood to flow to the genitals, making it more difficult to produce sperm. Smoking also damages the sperm membrane and can alter DNA, thereby causing birth defects in babies.
When it comes to clothing, wear comfortable underwear that does not raise the temperature of the testicles, or keeps it too close to the body. Funny as it may sound, don’t use your laptop on your lap for prolonged periods, as the heat can affect your testicles. Remember that cooler temperature is best for healthy sperm production.
Check your diet. Are you eating the right food to keep your sperm healthy? Go for food that contains zinc, folic acid, vitamin C, and essential fatty acids, like Omega 3. For those who want an extra boost, herbal supplements are available in the market, such as panax ginseng, ginkgo biloba, saw palmetto berry, nutmeg, among others.
Words by Dr. Amos Grunebaum
Story from BC Magazine U.S. Spring 2014