Hard Facts and Myths About Male Fertility



Whether we like to admit it or not, world over, fertility issues most often refer to female infertility. Much like the way gender issues are simply euphemism for women issues.

From Nigeria to India, to Australia, to Europe and the ends of Northern American, you will find plenty clinics treating female patients first before considering the male partners. And that just mirrors societal perception.

Recently, I read a piece where Indian women were reportedly groaning under the weight of infertility, because only a few doctors and hospitals treated male factor infertility. According to the piece, practically, every doctor was a gynaecologist and there was only so much that a gynae could do for male factor infertility, apart from like applying first aid.

Due to the fact that there is not so much attention in the area of male infertility, as there is in female fertility, there is so much misinformation and myths concerning the issue of male factor infertility. I encountered that recently. In one day, I found a doctor, who warned men to avoid putting their phones in their pockets close to their genitals, as cell phone rays “cooked” sperm and then another scientist, who wondered if that was necessary, as men have been exposed to electromagnetic field rays for years, he mentioned men in radio, men, who were pilots and there were no reported cases of infertility reported in them. He went on to wonder, how small measures of electromagnetic rays would now be affecting men’s future fertility.

If you were like me, you will surely be confused as to what to believe, because both points of view have merits, have scientific backings and sounded believable, except for the plain fact that one of them has to be right and the other wrong.

So, I started digging, and here are what I found.

Myth: Releasing more sperm to improve the quality

The approach of boosting fertility by abstaining from sex and retaining the seed in order to increase the chances of at least one sperm scoring a goal – is a theory that’s been shown to be flawed.

Recent facts have revealed via IVF research carried out in the UK and Australia, which shows that sperm motility, which is, its ability to travel through the female reproductive tract and fertilise the egg – deteriorates the longer it’s left un-released.

And a doctor, Paul Serhal, male fertility consultant adds; infrequent ejaculation is definitely a contributing factor to infertility.  He continued, “I advise clients to ejaculate at least two times a week to clear out the sperm which has had its DNA fragmented so it’s replaced by new, more potent ones.”


Myth: Foods, especially antioxidants rich foods make your fertile

Well, this is sort of a fact. There are more studies and scientists agreeing that eating foods high in antioxidant content is crucial to strong sperm DNA.

Antioxidants consumed via vitamins C and E, folate and zinc lead to fewer ruptures in sperm DNA strands; even when those foods might have some of those dreaded chemicals in them.

Studies reported in the journal Fertility & Sterility show that men who consumed 700 milligrams of vitamin C a day had 20 per cent less sperm DNA damage than those who took in less of the vitamin.

This is especially visible in men over 40, where the influence of diet on the health of sperm appears to be even stronger.

Myth: Chemicals kill sperm

The fact: If the amount of chemicals reportedly linked to infertility are anything to go by, then, there is really nothing that anyone TTC would eat, because these chemicals are present in foods, in plastics, on which the foods are eaten, and many other items, most of which are for daily usage.

Here’s the truth though according to male fertility consultant, Serhal, “Although there are issues over the influence of plastics and chemicals on health and wellbeing, the recent study linking plastics compounds and sunscreen chemicals directly to low sperm count is far from conclusive. None of these elements are likely to be the root cause of problems for couples desperate to conceive.”

Instead, Serhal insists that such factors as age, diet, bad habits such as smoking and carrying excess weight are much more likely to hamper the potency of a man’s sperm. “Having an egg for breakfast in a non-stick pan, protecting your skin with factor 20 sunscreen or driving a car with new upholstery – none of them is a realistic risk to sperm quality.”

Can we move on now?

The cell phone radiation and sperm debate

Now, this is the crux of the matter, because there are already special shorts on the market, said to be capable of protecting a man’s sperm from the “harmful” rays of his cell phones.

At least, one study has shown that cell phones damage sperm’s viability and ability to swim, effectively lowering sperm count. This is believed to apply to cell phones that are transmitting or are in talk mode and that are in close proximity to men’s lower halves. Men, who love going hands-free with a Bluetooth device often leave their cell-phones around their hips or in their front pocket, which directly exposes his goods to the rays from his cell-phone.

Well, here’s the fact, current ideas about cell-phones causing infertility are too weak to counter over 100 years of commercial experience with radio waves.

According to author, Timothy J. Jorgensen, radio waves, which are stronger form of waves than cell phones use have been used for telecommunication ever since Marconi first demonstrated in 1901 that they could carry messages across the Atlantic Ocean.

These early radio workers were exposed to massive doses of radio waves, yet no fertility problems in them were reported. And if they didn’t have problems, how can the relatively low doses from cell-phones have such an effect?

Well, we are all still wondering what the whole hassles is about and hopefully a more convincing study will put paid to the issue.

Myth: Heat kill sperm

Everyone says this and every TTC woman has most likely encouraged her DH to change to boxers shorts, if they were formerly using briefs.

The fact however is, the testes hangs outside the body for a rather simple reasons; that’s where they’re kept coolest. And heat indeed damage sperm.

With this myth, it is worth taking note of the fact that indeed, prolonged exposure to excessive heat has been shown in numerous studies to have a negative effect on sperm production and DNA.

The doctors agree that, for every one degree increase in temperature above normal levels, sperm production can drop by as much as 40%. Whilst temporary overheating, like the odd sauna or bath isn’t a major cause for concern.

However, if it becomes a lifestyle; like driving for most of the day, then sitting with a computer in your lap for an hour and having hot baths every day, that risk increases significantly.

Even though, I have only met one urologist in my life, which was at the Southshore fertility seminar, there are still doctors, whose specialty are male factor fertility and that counts for something, of course, it will be nice too, if more of the right knowledge of issues concerning the matter of male fertility is out there.

As they say…knowledge is power.

Happy New Year folks!



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Photo credits: 

1. http://media.gettyimages.com/

2. http://scienceline.org/

3. http://www.amazing-glutathione.com/

4. https://chestsculpting.com/

5. http://scienceblogs.com/

6. http://i.dailymail.co.uk/




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