Let’s talk about men

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.

Final call for male participants – involuntary childlessness research

Some of you may remember that we have been supporting a researcher, Megumi Fieldsend, in her search for participants for her work on involuntary childlessness. Megumi is now putting out a final call for men who might be willing to help her study on  “life without children – lived experience of a man who wanted to be a dad”. She is aiming to carry out her final interviews by the end of July so if you know someone who might be a potential participant, could you ask him if he would be interested in taking part in Megumi’s research project?

There are set criteria for participation, and if you have any questions about the study or want to check about the criteria, please do get in touch with Megumi who will be happy to answer any questions. You can contact her by calling 0778 026 3685 or by emailing her at
megfieldsend@gmail.com

Men wanted to answer survey on fertility

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 

Are you going to bed too late?

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 

Male fertility evening

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.

Life without children for men

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 megfieldsend@gmail.com

National Fertility Awareness Week starts on Monday

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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

Why watching the Olympics doesn’t damage your sperm count…

120px-TV_highqualitySo 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.

Fertility is a man’s issue too…

120px-Depressed.svgAfter 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.

Tomatoes for male fertility?

Fruit3Researchers 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 !