Male reproductive health is in crisis, so find out how your man can boost his fertility and increase yourchance of conception.
When you’re tryingfor a baby, thedisappointmentof not fallingpregnant monthafter month canbe devastating. Perhaps you’ve spentyour 20s and early 30s building a career,assuming that when you’re ready to starta family, it will happen with ease. It’sunderstandable, then, that when you don’tconceive, you feel as if your body is failingyou, but recent research shows it may beyour man who needs the fertility MOT.One-in-six UK couples (around 3.5million) has trouble conceiving, with poorsperm quality or ejaculation difficultiesaccounting for 30 per cent of cases. And,disturbingly, the problem is getting worseeach year.In a major review of 43,000 men inEurope, North America, Australia and NewZealand this year, scientists found thatsperm count fell by a massive 60 per centbetween 1973 and 2011.
In fact, thescientists were so concernedabout the implications of their findings,published in Human Reproduction Update,they concluded, ‘research on the causes ofthis continuing decline is urgently needed’.So what is so far understood about thisdramatic fall in male fertility? ‘Althoughwe don’t know the specific causes, it’sprobably no coincidence that the strongestevidence for the decline is in the moreheavily industrialised countries,’ saysProfessor Daniel Brison, scientific directorat the Department ofReproductive Medicine,Manchester UniversityNHS Foundation Trust.‘This points the finger atenvironmental pollutants orperhaps changes in diet or lifestyle.
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Thereis also the possibility that sperm counts aredeclining not only because of things menare exposed to now, but because of thingsthe mothers of these men were exposedto when they were pregnant, or even backas far as their grandmothers.’Some obvious candidates forinvestigation are hormones in theenvironment, for example, from thecontraceptive Pill or animal farming, andthere have also been reports of menworking in rubber factories having fertilityissues. Additionally, research in the journalEndocrinology found waste waterproduced from fracking (injecting ahigh-pressurised mix of water, sand andchemicals into the ground to fracture rockand release the gas within it) contained23 endocrine-disrupting chemicals thatinterfered with male sex hormones andled to a lower sperm count in mice.‘I think society needs to look verycarefully at the impact we’rehaving on our planet andin particular the levelsof toxins and pollutionwe generate,’warns Brison.That said, there’sno need forindividual mento worry aboutchanges to their fertility, he believes. ‘Atthe current rate of decline, it will take manydecades before fertility is affected directlyand even now it’s possible to father a childusing just a single sperm, using assistedreproductive technology,’ he adds.‘However, your man can make helpfulchanges to his lifestyle, including avoidingsmoking and excessive alcohol; plusmaking sure he eats healthily andexercises. These are all beneficialto general health as well as fertility.’Here’s what he needs to do.
Apart from all the other reasons to quit,smoking can damage sperm DNA andfertility. A study in European Urology alsofound smoking is linked to decreasedsperm count and motility (how spermmove) as well as sperm shape. What’smore, IVF is less likely to be successfulif your man smokes.
When you’re trying to conceive, more thanfive units of alcohol a week can affect yourman’s sperm quality and reproductiveorgans. Research in the British MedicalJournal shows drinking between one andfive units a week to be the optimum level(interestingly, being tee-total results inpoorer sperm quality) – and the morehe drinks, the greater the impact onhis sperm.
‘Eat zinc-rich ingredients such as seafood,lamb, spinach, nuts, beans andmushrooms. Studies also show “eatinga rainbow” of fruit and vegetables richin antioxidants will boost male fertility.Antioxidants cause surges in testosterone,improve sperm quality and increase sexdrive,’ says Shona Wilkinson, nutritionistat SuperfoodUK.com.
✲GET SOME EXERCISE
But not too much! While research in thejournal Reproduction shows 30 minutes’exercise at least three times a week canboost sperm count, intense exercisemay have the opposite affect as it lowerstestosterone levels. Get your exerciseenthusiast to ask his GP for advice if youthink he could be working out too much.
AGELOSS MEN’S MULTI
High in zinc and libido-optimising herbal staples rhodiola rosea and ginseng. £28.45 for 60 capsules; naturesplus.co.uk.
Contains food-state vitaminsminerals, amino acids andbotanicals, including selenium forhealthy sperm development, zincto optimise normal fertility andhealthy testosterone levels andsynergistic nutrients for energy£32 for 60 capsules;wildnutrition.com.
A simple device that’s shown toincrease sperm concentration andquality by 323 per cent in 85 percent of couples*. Sperm iscollected in a condom-like sheath,then placed in a cup-like devicethat’s placed over the cervix tomaximise exposure. £99.99;thestorkconception.co.uk.