From where I’m sitting, it feels like the fertility of the male folks is under attack, with the plethora of information that has been coming out in recent times about their current and future fertility.
Few weeks ago, the news broke that sperm count in many men in the West has reduced by half, in just the past 40 years, and is currently falling by an average of 1.4% per year. A fall, which doomsayers are saying could lead to the extinction of the human race.
Since that report broke, there has been a series of other studies, which have been trying to determine the reason for the sharp fall over just a mere four decades. Woefully, nothing substantial has been found, except the usual suspects; toxins, endocrine disruptors, and genetic issues. Mind you, there is still no concrete evidence to link these suspects to the declining sperm count.
While reproductive specialists hail the findings of the study, it is all just a matter of rhetoric and songs of lamentation.
Let’s bring the issue back home. Towards the end of July, one Dr Ochuko Erikainure, a Senior Research Officer at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), warned that there is a substance in Okra, an ordinarily nutritious plant, which could cut sperm production and motility.
Speaking in an interview, the research officer noted that “Okra is a hardy plant that can grow even with less water and in hot conditions.’’
Erukainure revealed that okra has a unique substance called Gossypol. “Gossypol inhibits sperm production and motility by blocking several enzymes that are highly important in energy metabolism in sperm and sperm producing cells. “Okra seeds are very rich in toxic pigment called Gossypol which promotes infertility in men by arresting sperm production (spermatogenesis) even at lower dose.”
That was enough to put me off cooking Okra at home again.
Apart from the food, something as basic as noise can affect the fertility of a man. A study found out that long-term exposure to noise, particularly at night, has been linked to infertility in men.
The researchers discovered that any exposure above the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved safety levels of 55 decibels (which is equivalent to the noise of a suburban street) at night, is linked to a significant increase in infertility.
Away from studies and counter studies, early this year, the WHO declared that there was a low level of knowledge that is available where male factor infertility is concerned. So, whatever knowledge we have now is nowhere near what it should be, more so, if you compare it with female fertility.
Even the UK Medical Research Council, reiterated the concerns of WHO, by calling for scientists to put forward projects in the field for funding. Hopefully, some scientists have taken the bait and started work on some new discoveries.
Away from the statistics and studies to the real life male, I have been concerned at least, where the future fertility of my boys is concerned, and there is still a tiny part of me that worries about it.
When my son was seven years old, he had an incident, where one of his testes seemingly left its sac and travelled up to one side of his pelvis. We could see the bulge and when pressed, that bulge hurt him.
I took him to the hospital and shared my concerns with the Paediatrician, who performed a physical examination and said both testes were present in the scrotum.
I did know I was holding my breath, but I let it out in one whoosh at her declaration. She asked me to touch his scrotum and see for myself. I did and it was there, but the days leading to that hospital visit, I had been feeling the same scrotum and I could swear, his right testis was not there.
In the doctor’s office, both testes were down and the painful bulge was present. Some antibiotics were prescribed and another appointment made for us to come back, so she could see if the antibiotics worked or she would have to referred us to a specialist hospital.
My heart flew into my mouth again at the mention of specialist hospital, and all manner of thoughts filled my head. Thankfully, the antibiotics did the trick and we didn’t have to be referred.
Just days ago, that same young man was telling me about his testes again and my ears peaked. Huh?! Immediately, I told him to lie down and performed a physical exam myself. I cannot afford to be hearing some stories years down the line. The testes were there, albeit one was smaller than the other, and I guided his hand too to feel them. We are both at peace now and will check again in a few months.
As I checked my son this latest time though, I was actually filled with dread at finding out, God forbid, that one of his testes would not be there. I don’t know whether it was from the case of the declining sperm count or the personal encounters I had with two men dealing with azoospermia, but I was so afraid. It’s probably a mixture of both.
The first time I heard about azoospermia was on Twitter, via a user who had turned his diagnosis into a means of creating awareness about the condition. He had one funky name like that on his profile image; “100% juice, no seeds”, it was. It was an eye opening encounter when I read his story.
After that, I have heard about other male factor issues, but to now hear about azoospermia twice within a couple of days, I was shocked at the frequency of this condition.
While, it seems too close for comfort for me, the stats from a recent study say that five percent of men suffer from infertility and approximately one percent of these cases are azoospermia, which is a condition in which sperm cells are completely absent.
With all of this scary information, or even lack of it, it has become imperative to do away with the deeply entrenched myth that a man can always procreate, regardless of his age.
We all know better these days, that that notion is far from the truth. Male factor infertility is on the increase, and not many know about it, much less speak about it.
To wave off the attack, knowledge is key.
Food for thought.
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