During this webinar, Ian Stones, Co-director and Founder of testhim, discussed the issues around male infertility and the impact it has on men. Ian explained how today’s fertility support system often fails the man and how many men miss out on the correct tests at the correct time with potentially devastating effects.
Ian Stones, co-director of Testim, has a mission to revolutionize the field of infertility, focusing on educating men and providing proper testing. With a background spanning 16 years as an acupuncturist, Ian has closely observed the lack of support for men undergoing fertility treatment. His collaboration with Fertility Network UK led to the establishment of the first male fertility support program. Ian emphasizes the need for change in male fertility awareness and support to create a more balanced perspective.
Shifting the Focus to Men
The prevailing notion that infertility is solely a female issue is deeply ingrained in societal narratives. This perception arises from limited education and media portrayal. Contrary to this belief, statistics show that fertility issues are equally distributed between men and women. Around 30% of cases are attributed to male factors, while an additional 30% involve female factors, with the remaining 40% arising from a combination. It is vital to challenge this gender-biased narrative and foster a comprehensive understanding of infertility.
The Scope of Male Infertility
The scope of male infertility is significant, with approximately 7% of the global male population, ranging from 30 to 60 million men, experiencing fertility challenges. Strikingly, male infertility prevalence is on par with that of diabetes, a condition that garners considerably more attention. Additionally, 1 in 100 men faces a complete absence of sperm, a statistic that underscores the urgency of addressing male reproductive health. Disturbingly, male factor infertility contributes to over 50% of cases where IVF is pursued, yet the coverage of this aspect remains disproportionately inadequate.
The journey into fertility challenges often starts with couples beginning to consider parenthood. In many cases, couples experience natural conception within two years. However, when conception does not occur, couples must confront the complexities of fertility struggles. Unfortunately, the support and assessment provided diverge significantly between men and women at this juncture. This early discrepancy can have profound implications for the entire fertility journey.
The initial assessment process for couples facing fertility issues is unequal. Women undergo a comprehensive evaluation encompassing hormone tests, ultrasounds, and screenings for infections, among other tests. Conversely, men are typically subjected to basic evaluations such as semen analysis, with limited consideration of other critical factors affecting fertility. This divergence marks the inception of a problematic path that often leads to ineffective interventions.
The male-centric assessment path encounters a significant obstacle when couples are referred to fertility specialists, often gynaecologists. These specialists, by virtue of their expertise in female reproductive health, may not fully address male factor infertility. Consequently, the male partner’s needs remain overlooked, and solutions tend to centre around female reproductive interventions.
In many cases, IVF becomes the proposed solution for couples experiencing fertility challenges. However, this approach may inadvertently overlook the underlying male reproductive health issues. For men with suboptimal sperm quality, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is often presented as a remedy. This sidesteps addressing the core issues with male fertility, leading to a continuous cycle of IVF attempts without addressing the root cause.
Revolutionizing Male Fertility
A comprehensive approach to male fertility assessment is imperative to address the inadequacies in the current system. While women receive extensive evaluations, men are often deprived of critical tests that could identify underlying issues, such as oxidative stress, DNA fragmentation, and hormonal imbalances. These factors have a direct impact on fertility outcomes and should be part of routine assessments.
The male fertility journey is an integral part of the broader fertility narrative. While the challenges women face are well-recognized, acknowledging the experiences of men is equally important. Both partners deserve comprehensive evaluations, support, and appropriate interventions. By correcting the current disparities in assessment and awareness, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and effective approach to infertility.
The pressure for men to perform is multifaceted, encompassing not only the physical task of providing a sample, but also the emotional weight of meeting their partner’s expectations. This pressure extends beyond the bedroom to lifestyle adjustments, dietary changes, and adherence to various fertility advice. The cumulative effect of these pressures takes a toll on men’s mental health, exacerbating feelings of inadequacy and failure.
Amid these trials, financial concerns loom large. While women often focus on lifestyle adjustments and holistic approaches, men grapple with the financial implications of fertility treatments. Beyond financial burdens, emotional distress becomes another layer. Men internalize worries about their partner’s well-being, often suppressing their own emotional turmoil, which results in a lack of mutual communication and support.
Men’s struggles with infertility extend far beyond the physical realm. Emotionally, they experience a downward spiral that affects daily functioning, including work productivity, social interactions, and mental well-being. The weight of this burden is reflected in alarming statistics that link male infertility to increased risk of depression and even thoughts of suicide. Feelings of inadequacy and emasculation compound, resulting in men feeling incapable of providing the one thing their partner desires most – a child.
Men must be encouraged to seek support, both within their relationships and through professional channels. Breaking the silence and stigma surrounding male fertility challenges can alleviate some of the psychological pressures men face.
Lifestyle factors & Male fertility
The connection between lifestyle factors and male fertility has garnered significant attention in recent years. While a balanced approach to life can positively impact reproductive health, certain habits and choices may have adverse effects. This article delves into the critical aspects of lifestyle that influence male fertility, highlighting both harmful and beneficial practices.
Exercise and Its Effects
Exercise is a fundamental component of a healthy lifestyle, but its impact on male fertility is nuanced. Contrary to common perception, excessive cycling, for instance, can potentially harm sperm health due to microtrauma and testicular temperature elevation. A crucial point to remember is that moderation is key.
Weight and Supplements
Striking a balance between exercise and rest is vital. While staying active is essential, excessive weightlifting may also have implications. Additionally, the article raises concerns about protein powders and anabolic steroids.
Plastics, Caffeine, and Radiation
Ian also explained the effects of plastic, highlighting its endocrine-disrupting potential, particularly concerning estrogen. Both caffeine and alcohol are addressed; moderate caffeine intake is deemed acceptable, but excessive consumption could have negative repercussions. Likewise, mobile phone radiation is deemed a legitimate concern, emphasizing the importance of avoiding direct exposure.
Medication and Awareness
Another crucial factor is medication. Some prescribed medications might affect fertility, underscoring the necessity of consulting a healthcare provider. It’s a reminder that awareness of medication’s impact is vital for maintaining reproductive health.
Men need to get on top of their health and to actually pay attention to this stuff… there are treatment options that can make a huge difference to their fertility and their potential treatment outcomes.
Positive Steps for Male Fertility
A balanced, colourful diet rich in antioxidants and nutrients is recommended. Hydration is stressed, alongside diversifying exercise routines. Regular ejaculation is highlighted as essential for sperm health, countering the misconception that storing sperm is beneficial.
The choice of underwear also matters; loose-fitting underwear is preferable to avoid raising scrotal temperature. The significance of consulting the right medical professionals is emphasized. A urologist or andrologist should be sought out, as their expertise aligns with male fertility concerns.
Understanding the impact of lifestyle factors on male fertility is crucial for men aspiring to conceive. By maintaining a balanced lifestyle, seeking appropriate medical guidance, and embracing emotional support, men can navigate the path to optimal reproductive health.