You may be interested in this article written by Professor Sheena Lewis who is Professor of Reproductive Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast about the increase in fertility problems and what she believes could be to blame.
Professor Lewis has carried out research into unexplained infertility which she says is often caused by undiagnosed male factor problems, in particular sperm DNA damage.
Professor Lewis makes the argument in her article that there is simply not enough research being carried out into the field of fertility, particularly considering how widespread the problem is – and she clearly feels that the current treatment funding situation is simply not good enough.
It’s an interesting article – and you can read it in full here
I’ve had a really interesting couple of days at the European fertility conference ESHRE which is being held in London this year. It has been fascinating to meet people from around the world who are involved in the fertility field and to look at different issues from different perspectives – from the lovely Kenyan doctor who is working to set up a fertility support group to the IVF baby who was so inspired by the story of her conception that she’s training to be an embryologist!
One theme that emerged from a number of discussions over the last couple of days was unexplained infertility and sperm DNA damage – last night I was very excited to meet Professor Sheena Lewis, the leading expert in this field, whose research has shown that sperm DNA damage is the key to unexplained infertility.
This morning I met a Danish expert, Preben Christensen, who is working in a similar area. He said that he had seen lifestyle changes make a real difference to the fertility of men who had been unable to conceive because they’d been drinking large quantities of fizzy caffeinated drinks or eating huge quantities of chocolate every day – and even taking scalding hot baths. He recommends testing for DNA damage and then not only lifestyle changes but also taking vitamin supplements such as Vitamin D, zinc and selenium all of which can affect sperm.
It does seem that there is increasing evidence that this is a really important factor in fertility – but one that is not yet part of the routine round of tests which are carried out at clinics.
Being told that doctors can’t find a reason why you can’t get pregnant can be hugely frustrating – and often means that people end up blaming themselves, making endless lifestyle changes or paying for lots of complementary treatments in an attempt to improve their fertility.
Now, researchers from Belfast claim that they’ve discovered a cause for many fertility problems which have been classified as “unexplained”. In a study of more than 200 couples, they discovered that there was high sperm DNA damage in 80% of the couples who’d been told their infertility was unexplained. The research – which has been published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online – also revealed that the chances of getting pregnant after IVF is linked to the amount of DNA damage in each sperm. Some DNA damage is normal and is found even in perfectly fertile men, but when levels are high this can reduce the chances of having a baby even with fertility treatment.
You can read more about the research here. If this is indeed the case, it could herald a huge change in the diagnosis and treatment of many couples with fertility problems.