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.
Researcher Megumi Fieldsend who has carried out previous work looking at childlessness is working on a new project “Life without children – lived experience of a man who wanted to be a dad”. She would like to talk to childless men who are in heterosexual relationships with no adopted children, step-children or children of a partner from a previous marriage/relationship and she would like to carry out interviews as soon as possible. There are some other criteria which Megumi can discuss with anyone who might be interested, If you, or anyone you know, falls into this category and might be willing to talk to Megumi for her research project you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
National Fertility Awareness Week starts on Monday 31st October and runs through to Sunday 6th November 2016. It is your week and you can help Fertility Network UK to raise awareness during the week.
Fertility issues are all too often misrepresented and misunderstood. It’s common for media attention to be focused on stereotypes of fertility struggles: the 30 – or 40 – something career woman who’s left it too late; the against-the-odds IVF success story or the woman who’s apparently easily come to terms with childlessness – but this is far from the real picture.
During National Fertility Awareness Week, Fertility Network UK aims to highlight the unseen, intimate and day-to-day reality of fertility issues, to overturn commonly-held misconceptions about fertility and to shine a spotlight on untold fertility stories.
In the UK, 1 in 6 couples experience the pain fertility issues bring. Even if you don’t have direct experience, you probably know someone who does – a family member, friend or work colleague. We hope people will join in, raise funds and help change perceptions about fertility issues.’
The five focus areas for this year’s media campaign are:
- The myth of the middle-aged would-be-mum: fertility issues in your 20s and early 30s
- The truth about fertility treatment: we know that 75% of individual IVF cycles are unsuccessful and that most people who become parents after treatment go through more than one cycle. What is it like to face multiple rounds of treatment?
- The hidden half: men are just as likely as women to suffer from fertility issues
- Facing up to childlessness: coming to terms with childlessness is too often portrayed as a straightforward process when the reality is far from that
- Life after successful IVF: the taboo of secondary infertility and can life as the parent of an IVF miracle ever be normal?
You can find out more about how to get involved at the National Fertility Awareness Week website and on Twitter with the hashtags #NFAWUK #HiddenFaces #fertilityin5
So the Daily Mail tells us that watching too much Olympic sport on TV “could spell problems ahead” for men who want to become fathers. I am pleased to tell you that watching the Olympics is not going to make you infertile…
The report is based on research from Copenhagen University published in the American Journal of Epidemiology which found that healthy young men who had a “couch potato lifestyle” and watched more than 5 hours of TV a day had lower sperm counts than those who were more active.
It isn’t the first time that research has concluded that too much TV is bad for your fertility (see this report here with some common sense advice from Professor Allan Pacey) but this research discovered that sitting at a computer screen for the same amount of time didn’t have the same impact – it was thought that the men who watched TV were also likely to eat less healthily and take less exercise – which brings us back to the root of the problem with the point about watching the Olympics being bad for your sperm count.
The reality is that it’s a healthy lifestyle which makes a difference to your sperm – and to your general health and well-being. You don’t really need academic researchers to tell you that a man who spends entire days in front of the TV eating chips and drinking beer is less likely to be fertile than a man who watches masses of Olympics on TV but also eats healthily and enjoys getting out and about taking moderate exercise.
After talking about the way men are so often shoved to one side when it comes to fertility at Fertility Fest yesterday, I was fascinated to find a story from the US on my news feed titled “Ohio man shares wife’s infertility struggle to encourage other couples”…
It really sums up everything that is wrong with the way we look at fertility problems. The article describes how the Ohio man apparently “opened up about his wife’s miscarriage” as if it had nothing to do with him. Reading what the man from Ohio actually wrote, it is clear that he saw himself as being very much a part of the experience and involved in it. It’s the journalist’s take on what he was saying which is the problem – but it is time we put a stop to the idea that fertility is an issue for women and that men are simply standing by ready to offer support. Robin Hadley’s research shows that men are just as hurt by childlessness as women, and we need to champion the importance of understanding this.
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
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.
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.
Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have suggested that sleeping badly may be linked to male fertility problems. They looked at the sleep patterns of more than 900 Danish men and found that those who had less than six hours sleep a night or suffered from disturbed sleep were more likely to have a poor quality sperm.
Before you dash off to the sleep clinic, what the team don’t know is whether improving sleep patterns for these individuals would lead to an improvement in sperm quality. You might also be reassured by comments on this story in the Daily Mail from Dr Allan Pacey, a leading UK expert on the subject, who said that men should not be worried by this research as it was unlikely that poor sleep would have a major impact on fertility
You can find a link to the paper itself here.