Concerns over rising male infertility
•As fertility expert warns against the use of sex boosters, herbal concoctions
Male infertility is a situation whereby a man is either wholly or partly responsible for infertility in a union. It has become so common that it accounts for 40-60 percent of cases.
Infertility has traditionally been thought of as a woman’s problem, but this is far from the truth. Men are just as involved with infertility as women.
According to a fertility specialist and the Chief Executive Officer of Nordica Fertility Centre, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, about one out of every three cases of infertility is due to the man alone, and a man shares infertility problems with the woman about half the time.
He, therefore, advised couples having the challenge of having children to go to the hospital together to have their fertility checked.
According to him, couples are advised to seek fertility evaluations if they are unable to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse considering that newly-wedded couples would have had a pregnancy within a year, but if they are over 35, they are urged to seek an evaluation after six months, whether or not it is a male factor infertility problem.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja, Ajayi who noted that the only way to roughly assess infertility in a man is through sperm analysis, pointed out that sperm parameters are said to be declining, as studies done in America and Europe showed that sperm count has declined by about 50 percent in about 40 years while a study done in Nigeria showed that in about 10 years, sperm count has declined by 30 percent.
According to him, the World Health Organization (WHO) has given a minimum standard which has been changing in the last 40 years it started with 40 million and came to 20 million but now 15 million is considered to be normal now.
Ajayi stressed the need not to confuse libido and potency with fertility as quite a number of male infertility issues do not affect their primary ability to produce male hormones, or their sexual function (to have an erection).
He observed that lifestyle is a major and only reversible cause of male infertility adding that while some men are born that way (hereditary) other contributing factors include infections, trauma, musks, undescended testicles Alcohol, hard drugs, obesity, and environmental pollution among others.
Ajayi revealed that some vocations can predispose men to infertility like men who work in the paint industry, fuel stations for a very long time, long-distance truck drivers, Okada drivers because they subject their testes to high temperature.
“Some sports like cycling, over a long period of time can lead also to low sperm count, also, people who are exposed to toxic materials like fertiliser and so on. The truth of the matter is that we don’t know everything that causes male infertility because if you want to enumerate everything, almost everything will cause male infertility. We are still looking at specifics because almost everything has been attributed, including toothpaste. But I don’t want to bring that up so that men would not stop brushing their mouths and say it’s because I said so”.
“Men infertility is still something we are learning a lot about the cause, we don’t know everything that causes male infertility, but those are the risk factors, we don’t know what causes male infertility because almost everything has been incriminated. We are getting more knowledge about male factor infertility”. We used to think that all the man needs to do is to fertilize the eggs and everything is finished but we are now seeing that the quality of the sperm also determines the quality of the embryo that is formed, whether in the bed or in the laboratory and the chances of the embryo become a baby,” he said.
The consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist warned against the consumption of hard and sex enhancement drugs by men, saying they were contributory factors to male infertility.
He said, “Some young men take all kinds of drugs in other to shift women’s womb, but they might be shifting their sperms too. Hard drugs and all these drugs that they use for testosterone are destructive to sperm count too.”
While noting that, “Sometimes, men will start using prescriptions after their wives consult doctors over low sperm count,” he said, “It is only a few men that the drugs are beneficial too.”
He noted that living with male infertility could be a huge challenge and many men feel emotional stress with a diagnosis of infertility adding that diagnosis of male infertility can be a hard challenge for a man to face. For some, it can even be devastating.
Not being able to father a child can make you feel that you are failing at one of your most primal responsibilities.
Ajayi stated that for some men who inherited infertility because they were born that way, they could have their own children through IVF.
On the way forward, Ajayi said, “We need to be talking about lifestyle changes for our young men so that we can prevent to some extent male factor infertility. The other things are not really in our control.
For example, if you inherited a low sperm count, there is nothing anybody can do; it is not the same if it is because of whatever you are doing either knowingly or unknowingly.
Apart from raising awareness, we also need to table the solution. Probably the solution might be to prevent rather than to treat. That’s why the lifestyle factors are very important to young. We saw in a study that when you are obese, you are likely to be two and half times predisposed to not having sperm count than when you have an ideal body weight. Obesity is one of the things we need to curb in young men. Of course, there are some habits too to curb.
For example, cigarette smoking and hard drugs, also affect sperm count. We see now that our young people indulge in those things, it’s likely to have effects on their fertility over time.”