Male infertility: setting the record straight

Healthy Male is setting the record straight on three common myths about male fertility beginning with the misconception that when a couple struggle to get pregnant it’s a woman’s problem.

Men contribute to around half of fertility issues, reports Healthy Male.

In 20% of cases, the male is infertile and in 30% of cases, there are problems on both sides.

This supports claims by fertility expert Professor John Aitken, the NSW 2012 scientist of the year, who told the Australian Fatherhood Research Symposium in May that 1 in 20 men are infertile and 5% of the population relies on artificial assistance to get pregnant.

“In fact most men are sub-fertile. It’s a  situation that is probably getting worse with the passage of time,” he said.

“To fertilise an egg is an enormously complex event. Semen quality is declining very fast.”

Healthy Male says fertility depends on the quantity and quality of sperm.

“About two-thirds of men with fertility issues have a problem with low numbers of sperm and/or sperm that doesn’t work as it’s meant to,” says HM, presenting diagrams of what healthy sperm looks like compared to unhealthy sperm.

Contrary to commonly held beliefs that a healthy woman will produce a healthy baby, Healthy Male says a male's contribution will be compromised by smoking, drinking to excess, steroid misuse, sexually transmitted infections, proximity to environmental hazards and ‘heat stress from tight-fitting underwear’.

Professor Rob McLachlan an IVF specialist and medical director at Healthy Male, told the Hudson Institute of Medical Research that sperm produced in a man’s old age was not as healthy as that produced when he is younger.

“If you’re going to have children, men need to plan to have them earlier in life.

“Some of the things you do in your lifestyle can creep through and change the dimmer switch on the genes,” he said.

Healthy Male says men over 45 will find it takes longer for their partners to become pregnant and that there is a high risk of miscarriage. It’s also more common to father a child with Down syndrome and autism.

Professor McLachlan is leading a national research project to uncover what genes are involved in male infertility.

“I think when you unpack the whole suitcase there are going to be lots of different things – infection, STIs and genes buried in there that are causing what we see now as just low sperm quality.”

TAKE ACTION FOR MEN’S HEALTH

Read: Debunking the myths on male fertility (Healthy Male) 

Read: People should have kids earlier says reproductive scientist (AMHF)

Read: The lifestyle factors that affect male fertility (Herald Sun) 

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