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.
Do listen to the interview here on BBC Radio 4 with the excellent Robin Hadley about living without children from a male perspective. We hear so much about what this is like for women, but Robin speaks very eloquently and honestly here about how it feels for him.
A word of warning that the section of the programme immediately before Robin is a mother talking about how much she didn’t enjoy having children – the section with Robin starts at about 7.20 into the programme.
We don’t need reminding about the female biological clock, but what doesn’t get mentioned nearly as often is the fact that age has an impact on male fertility too. This really interesting article explains that male levels of testosterone actually start to decline when men are in their thirties, and that older men can take up to five times longer to conceive.
The author says that there’s a need for more information about male fertility and age, and that men need to be encouraged to discuss these issues with their doctors. Apparently in general men are 80% less likely than women to go to the doctor – and a recent study for Infertility Network UK found that nearly half of men would not feel happy discussing fertility with their GP.
When we call for more fertility awareness and education, there’s often a response from those who feel that women already know quite enough about this issue – but it’s clear that men certainly don’t.
It may have seemed a bit of an outdated idea that men would be unable to talk about anything personal or potentially distressing, but a new survey released by Nuffield Health in partnership with Infertility Network UK shows that fertility is certainly still a taboo subject for most men. Sadly, more than half of all the men who responded did not feel able to discuss fertility concerns with their partners, and just under half said that they would not be open to discussing their fertility with their GP either,
More than 2000 men from around the country were questioned for the survey, which also revealed that many were unaware of how lifestyle choices could affect fertility. Less than half were aware that being overweight or obese could have an impact, and half didn’t know that age played a role. Only 64% of the men surveyed were aware of the effect of alcohol and smoking on fertility, and 55% did not know that sexually-transmitted infections could have an impact.
Around a third of the men surveyed had experienced fertility problems, and of those the majority said it had a negative impact on their relationship with their partners. One in three said it had a negative influence on their work life, and 40% felt it had had an adverse effect on their mental health.
The survey showed that many men feel that they do not get as much support and information as they would like about fertility issues, and it is evident that they don’t always feel comfortable seeking help. It’s time to get across the message that fertility isn’t a women’s issue and that men need advice and support dealing with it too.