There have been a number of reports in the media recently about a decline in male fertility so alarming that it “could make humans extinct” after a study suggested that sperm counts seemed to have halved in the last forty years. The study found a decline in men in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, but it isn’t clear why this might be happening.
Other experts have suggested that there may be room for some scepticism about the findings from the research team led by Dr Hagai Levine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Although the research is said to be of high quality, some are concerned that it may be too early to be quite so pessimistic about the future, but it is clear that this is an issue which we should be concerned about and looking into more closely.
What often gets forgotten in the discussion about male fertility and sperm counts is the emotional impact for men of dealing with this – and you may be interested in this article with interviews from a number of men about how their experiences of infertility.
Men can often feel rather left out when it comes to fertility treatment – and the support available to couples can often seem very female-focused. Now, a team from Leeds Beckett University have partnered with Fertility Network UK to try to find out more about men’s experiences of fertility problems. They believe not enough is known about how men cope with fertility issues and will use the results of the research to help to raise awareness of men’s needs.
They will also produce a report at the end of the study and present the findings to health care professionals to ensure that the male perspective is taken into consideration in fertility clinics and in fertility counselling settings.
This survey is completely anonymous so please do fill it in – or get your partner to – and ensure that the researchers get a good response and can start to encourage changes in the support for men during treatment.
You can find the survey here
Could your sleep patterns be affecting your sperm count? New research from China has found that going to bed after midnight along with sleeping much less or much more than average seems to have an impact on sperm.
The research team looked at more than nine hundred men who had regular sleep patterns and divided them into groups who were all given different sleep durations and bedtimes. They then carried out semen analyses over a period of six months, and found that those who were having the shortest sleep had lower sperm counts and lower motility. They also found that those who went to bed after midnight had lower sperm counts regardless of how long they then slept for.
So, if you are trying to conceive, it’s certainly worth ensuring you get to bed before midnight – and that you don’t get too little or too much sleep. You can find the full paper from the team at China’s Harbin Medical University, which was published in the Medical Science Monitor, here
It is often noted that there’s a lack of support for men going through fertility problems and it is certainly true that much of the help on offer is aimed primarily at women. Now, for the first time, one London clinic is offering tailored support for men.
Andrology Solutions is running a male fertility evening on February 16th with a guest speaker, Gareth Down, and a team of andrologists at hand to answer any male fertility questions. You can find out more here.
They are often thought to be the safer version of smoking – but new research has found that the flavourings used in e-cigarettes may contain toxic chemicals which can damage men’s sperm.
A team from University College London found that two of the most popular flavours put into e-cigarettes were particularly damaging to sperm – bubblegum and cinnamon were both found to affect male fertility. You can read more details about their research, which was presented at the Fertility 2017 Conference earlier this month, here
If you haven’t seen them already, do catch the brilliant videos with Professor Allan Pacey titled #spermbanter made by Dr Fertility for National Fertility Awareness Week which give the facts about sperm production and what makes a difference to your sperm count. Professor Pacey is one of the country’s leading experts on male fertility and these videos are incredibly informative and give the facts – and also address many of the common myths about factors which can influence sperm and fertility too.
Do catch them – watch them all – it won’t take long. You may find it reassuring and you will certainly find it informative.
You can catch the videos on How sperm are made
What factors affect sperm quality
on how diet affects fertility
does smoking affect your sperm quality
and why a man might not have any sperm
There are a number of others – you will find them all once you start watching!
If you’d seen the Daily Mail headline earlier this week suggesting that the “Most popular form of IVF given to thousands of couples is ‘ineffective’“, you may well have been worried. In fact, the headline was referring to ICSI which is far from ineffective as a treatment for male fertility problems, and has allowed many men who would otherwise have had to use a donor to have their own genetic child.
The story in the Mail concerned the fact that ICSI isn’t an effective treatment in other cases, and it said that the editor-in-chief of the Human Reproduction journal, Professor Hans Evers, had criticised IVF clinics for offering ICSI to couples who will not benefit from it.
The fact that ICSI isn’t for everyone is not news. The NICE guidance in 2013 made it clear that ICSI should only be used where there were male fertility problems although it could also be considered where previous fertility treatment had resulted in failed or very poor fertilisation. ICSI is sometimes offered more widely, but there is no evidence that this would increase the chances of IVF working, and some research has suggested that it could actually reduce the chances of pregnancy where there is no indication that it is needed.
If you have male factor problems, you can ignore this as ICSI may well be the most effective treatment for you. If you are being offered ICSI where there are female issues or unexplained infertility, then you should make sure you talk to the team treating you about this before going ahead.
Researchers at Sheffield University are examining the way the red pigment compound found in tomatoes may impact on sperm. It’s called lycopene and the Sheffield team led by leading expert Professor Allan Pacey are investigating the impact taking a lycopene supplement has on sperm quality.
The study will use samples from a team of sixty volunteers over three months as that’s how long it takes to produce sperm, so the results may be available later this year. There have been claims that lycopene reverses DNA damage to sperm and can improve quality by up to 70%, so this could be a very interesting study.
There’s more about the story in the Daily Mail, under a headline about a “tomato pill” which may “supercharge” sperm here and a calmer version on the Sheffield University website here !
When it comes to the emotional aspects of fertility problems, things are all too often focused entirely on women – and yet, we know that men can suffer just as much as their female partners even if they don’t talk about it as openly.
Earlier this year, there was an event in Tooting in London looking specifically at men and fertility, and James, the organiser of the event, has just sent me this video from the event. They’re hoping to organise more events during the coming year, and I will make sure anything upcoming is posted on this blog and on the events page so that you know what to look out for. You can also read an article written by James here
We always hear about the need for women to maintain a healthy weight for reproduction, but new evidence from Denmark shows that information relating to a man’s weight is passed to his children in his sperm and that this could make them more likely to be obese themselves.
The researchers tested the sperm of obese men who were going through weight-loss surgery and found that there were changes in their sperm afterwards. The changes they found in the sperm were linked to the genes which relate to appetite control and brain development.
This was a very small study so would need more research, but it does suggest that it really is important for men to do all that they can to keep fit and healthy when they are trying to conceive. You can find the summary of the article, published in the Journal Cell Metabolism, here.