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Male fertility attracts nowhere near the same level of media scrutiny and social discourse that female fertility does. And yet, 40% of fertility problems experienced by couples trying to get pregnant can be attributed to male partners.
In fact, men also have a “biological clock” when it comes to sperm production
According to Genea, male fertility starts to decline from the age of 35, with increased levels of sperm damage, poorer testicular function and a small increased risk of passing on birth defects and disease.
When it comes to male factor infertility, it’s often more easily addressed than factors affecting women.
“Men are making sperm all the time, so there are things we can do to improve sperm quality,” says Genea Male Fertility Specialist Dr Derek Lok. “Unfortunately for women, at this point in time science doesn’t enable us to change the quality of the egg being released.”
Lifestyle factors like obesity, smoking and diet can play a significant role in male fertility – factors that can be addressed with lifestyle changes.
“We can now help many men who produce no sperm in the ejaculate by retrieving sperm surgically,” says Dr Lok. “It used to take millions of sperm to result in a pregnancy, but thanks to IVF we only need one good quality sperm to inject into an egg.”
Genea Medical Director, Associate Professor Mark Bowman adds that if a couple is experiencing fertility issues, a simple sperm test is a good opportunity to rule out common problems. “We can investigate how many sperm are in a sample, how they swim and what they look like”.
Given readily available treatments for male infertility and the fact a number of lifestyle tweaks can be a first and simple step, why is it still so hard to encourage men to discuss fertility challenges?
“In my experience, men aren’t talking about fertility over coffee or in the pub like many women do,” says Dr Bowman. “But it’s important for men to know that they are not bullet proof when it comes to sperm production.”
Dr Lok adds that if seeking fertility help, couples should see a doctor together. “It helps in getting an understanding of what the issues could be and establishing support for one another. It can be an emotional journey.”
For some simple advice to couples who are trying to conceive, Dr Bowman recommends starting with basics.
“Keep yourself fit and healthy, have an appropriate diet, keep yourself in the normal BMI range, don’t smoke and do things in moderation,” he says. “And get to know your cycle– understand the most likely times that the female partner will be ovulating.”
Being open about fertility is not always easy, but it can be a game changer. With one in six couples experiencing some kind of fertility issue, you’re not alone.
Speak with Genea’s fertility advisor or book a free fertility assessment.