An unspoken topic in today’s society is male infertility. When we think about infertility, it’s often in reference to women – but men are just as affected by infertility issues. Unfortunately, however, many men don’t feel as comfortable opening up about their infertility issues, so it’s not a topic we hear about so much.
It’s hard to say why, exactly. It’s possibly because sperm count and fertility seems to be intrinsically linked with masculinity; a feeling that having a low sperm count makes you less of a man – which of course isn’t the case. There can also be a sense of shame and disappointment in some men who may feel like they were unable to provide a child for their partners. It’s a complicated issue which can affect men more profoundly than they’ll often admit.
The positive news is that there are plenty of options for men who are having trouble conceiving with their partners. Simple changes in diet and lifestyle can have a huge effect on sperm count, and for those having real difficulty, sperm donation is always an option. Just about all men who want to become fathers, can – it’s simply a matter of being educated about your choices and making informed decisions.
A man’s fertility is largely dependent on the quality and quantity of his sperm. Having a low sperm count, or low sperm motility, can mean sperm are unable to fertilise an egg. This can be caused by a number of reasons – some of them genetic. But in many cases, simple changes to diet and lifestyle can have a huge impact on the quality and quantity of a man’s sperm.
- If you have low sperm count, you’re not alone – studies show that around one in five men experience problems with fertility.
- Diet and nutrition help to form the building blocks of our DNA – so if men are missing crucial vitamins and minerals which help support healthy sperm development, their sperm aren’t going to be as healthy as they could be. Diets high in zinc, selenium, vitamin C and essential fatty acids are crucial in the role of healthy sperm development
- Not only is smoking is harmful to sperm health and motility, but if a father smokes at the time of conception, it can have a negative impact on the health of the baby. Quitting smoking, as well as cutting down on excess drinking, will help boost your chances of conception
- It seems exercise is good for everything, and increasing your sperm count is no exception! Regular exercise to boost your body’s overall health, especially in men who need to lose weight, can help increase your sperm count
More often than not, IVF treatment will help couples successfully create embryos with their own eggs and sperm. However, for men who aren’t producing any sperm, sperm donation is another alternative to consider. By using in vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques, eggs are obtained from the woman, fertilised by sperm from the donor, and the resulting embryos are placed into the woman’s uterus.
- There are a few ways of obtaining donated sperm, either through a known donor, such as a close relative or friend who is willing to donate sperm; an anonymous donor, where the donor’s identity may remain unknown (however this option is uncommon in Australia), or via commercial sperm banks. Demeter Fertility has several Service Level Agreements with over donor banks and donor sperm can be arranged in less than two weeks.
Donor sperm health
- Men who wish to donate their sperm are screened for common infectious diseases before donation. A quarantine period is used and donors provide blood for repeat testing for HIV (AIDS) and hepatitis before any sperm is released from quarantine
- As the law currently stands, sperm donors are unable to trace off spring and vice versa. The current position of children born through donor sperm is that they have the same legal rights as naturally conceived off spring and the sperm recipients’ names can be put on the birth certificate
Advice for men experiencing fertility issues:
Seek help from an expert
- The first point of call is to seek professional advice. If you suspect you may have fertility issues, then make an appointment with a fertility specialist. More often than not, if there is indeed an issue, it can be treated – but it’s important to know exactly what you’re dealing with and what your options are.
Talk to your friends and family
- Opening up about fertility issues can be hard. But know that your friends and family aren’t going to judge you – it’s important to let people close to you know how you’re feeling. There’s no need to go through it alone.
- Even for couples with no fertility issues, it takes time to make a baby! Sometimes up to a year or even longer. So try not to stress each month, but instead create a healthy, positive lifestyle changes and know that eventually – one way or another – you will very likely become a father.