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 !

Men talking fertility

800px-I_Can't_Think_StraightWhen 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 

 

A man’s point of view

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.

Men have fertility problems too…

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.

Sleep and your sperm

800px-Sleeping_man_with_beard
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.

Fertility resources for men

So much fertility advice and support is female-focused – and if you look at a fertility forum, it’s usually women who are there talking to one another. You could be forgiven for thinking that fertility problems only happen to women…

Recently there have been a growing number of men calling for resources aimed specifically at them, and there is more understanding that men need support too – but perhaps in slightly different ways.

I just came across this US website – http://www.dontcookyourballs.com/ which has a lot of information and useful links in a really accessible way.  Infertility Network UK’s support groups are all open to men as well as women. You may also want to check out Mensfe, books such as My Little Soldiers by Glenn Barden and some of the blogs on the male perspective –

http://www.wannabedad.com/

https://afewpiecemissingfromnormalcy.wordpress.com/

http://remagineit.com/

http://onemansbattlewithmaleinfertility.blogspot.co.uk/

Do get in touch if you know of any other specifically male fertility sites, and I can add them to the list.

Could chemicals be affecting your sperm?

images-2There has been considerable debate about the role everyday chemicals may play in causing fertility problems, and now new research from the US suggests that a chemical found in plastics along with a hormone used in the contraceptive pill may be responsible for declining sperm counts.

Researchers at Washington State University exposed mice to the plastics chemical bisphenol A and to estradiol, a type of oestrogen found in contraceptives – and saw a clear impact on sperm production.  Bisphenol A is often found in plastic bottles as well as the linings of food and drink cans, while estradiol from contraceptive pills passes untreated through sewage plants and into water.

You can read more about the research on the Washington State University website.

Give up the cannabis if you want a baby

120px-Cannabis_sativa00New research from the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester has found that there is a clear link between sperm quality and cannabis use in younger men – the results were marked in those under the age of thirty, possibly because younger men tend to use cannabis more frequently and at higher doses.

It’s important to be aware that cannabis doesn’t instantly disappear from your system the moment you stop using it, and that sperm production takes around three months – so if you want to improve your chances of having a baby and you are a male dope smoker, it may take a while to see an improvement if you give up.

Interestingly, this new study – which analysed results from more than 2,000 men in 14 fertility clinics – didn’t find any associations between smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or wearing tight underpants and sperm morphology (the size and shape of the sperm) – but it is possible that these could affect sperm in other ways.  There was evidence that exposure to paint strippers had an impact on sperm quality.

The other interesting finding was that samples produced during the summer months (June, July and August) were more likely to have problems than those given during the rest of the year.

Dr Allan Pacey, Senior Lecturer in Andrology at the University of Sheffield, who was one of the authors of the report said: “Our knowledge of factors that influence sperm size and shape is very limited, yet faced with a diagnosis of poor sperm morphology, many men are concerned to try and identify any factors in their lifestyle that could be causing this.

“It is therefore reassuring to find that there are very few identifiable risks, although our data suggests that cannabis users might be advised to stop using the drug if they are planning to try and start a family.”

You can read more about the research on the University of Sheffield website here