Dealing with fertility challenges can be emotionally and financially taxing, overwhelming and isolating experience with the rest of the world against you however, the recent WHO has revealed that infertility is more common than one realises and is a matter of concern worldwide, with 1 out of every 6 couples experiencing fertility issues. With timely interventions and lifestyle modifications, couples can fulfill their dreams and experience the joy of parenthood.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Anviti Saraf, IVF Specialist at Nova IVF Fertility in Noida, shared, “The status of male and female reproductive systems throughout their life phases is referred to as reproductive health. With regards to men, sperm parameters are taken into account which consist of the concentration, motility and the shape of sperms. There are hormone-producing glands in the body, such as the pituitary gland in the brain which create and release hormones that are responsible for regulating sperm production from the testes. Any imbalance at any level or organ may impair sperm production and quality.”
Dr Sandeep Talwar, Infertility Specialist in New Delhi’s Vasant Vihar, pointed out, “The focus on fertility is often on the mother, from prenatal supplements to programmes that help mothers determine the optimal time to have infants. However, several studies and research has emphasized the role of both mother and father in the optimal act of conception are 50/50. There is no guidance or education for men to take care of their reproductive health because it’s typically considered a taboo subject, whereas women are frequently encouraged to discuss it openly. Even today, males are considered in the backend when it comes to conception challenges. However, it is necessary to acknowledge and recognise that men, like women, have equal responsibility for the pregnancy process. Their sexual health is just as vital as that of their partner.”
What is male fertility?
Dr Sandeep Talwar answered, “Male Fertility refers to the ability of the testes to continuously produce sperm in order to fertilise an egg, as well as erect and ejaculate for the sperm to reach the egg. Sperm quality is a key indicator of male fertility. It consists of the amount of sperm (sperm concentration), the form of the sperm (sperm morphology), and the ability of the sperm to swim to an egg (sperm motility). Recent studies shed light on the importance of sperm in a couple’s fertility journey and precautionary steps required to ensure optimal sperm health. The quality of human sperm has plummeted by 50% to 60% over the last 40 years, and variables such as a high-fat diet, diabetes and obesity may be to blame. Environmental factors, lifestyle, and genetics can all influence male fertility.”
Unlocking the Secrets of Fertility: A Roadmap to Reproductive Wellness
Dr Anviti Saraf highlighted 5 facts that can help men overcome fertility roadblocks and achieve optimal reproductive growth –
- Lifestyle Changes: Sperm Health can be maintained by implementing simple yet effective lifestyle changes such as consumption of a balanced diet, regular exercise, avoiding excessive alcohol, smoking and tobacco use, and managing stress. Ensuring adequate sleep and limiting caffeine intake are also vital to enhance one’s fertility rates.
- Age: Everyone is aware about the importance of women’s biological clock during a fertility journey, however, there is a widespread ignorance on men’s natural cycles. Although slower compared to women’s rapid regression, with age, men’s fertility declines too. Although, there is a possibility for men to become fathers at later stages, it’s important to be aware of the potential impact of age on fertility, especially considering today’s sedentary lifestyle and emerging health hazards and consider family planning accordingly.
- Regular STIs screenings: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can have detrimental effects on male reproductive health. Infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhea can lead to inflammation or blockages in the ducts which carry sperms from testes to semen, potentially causing infertility. Use of condoms and regular STI screenings are essential for maintaining better reproductive health.
- Regular Check-ups and Screenings: Men should prioritize regular check-ups and screenings for reproductive health. These may include semen analysis, hormone level testing, and physical examinations to assess overall reproductive function. Early detection of any potential issues can help identify and address them promptly, increasing the chances of successful treatment and preserving fertility.
- Detect Underlying Health Conditions: To promote a smooth fertility journey, it is vital to detect and manage underlying disorders such as diabetes, thyroid difficulties, PCOS, autoimmune conditions, and genetic anomalies. If someone is diagnosed with any cancer which requires chemotherapy or radiotherapy, there is an option of semen freezing before initiating cancer treatment as these therapies tend to affect testicular function and impair sperm production.
Bringing his expertise to the same, Dr Sandeep Talwar said, “Today, stress, a constantly shifting lifestyle, and a lack of physical activity make it difficult to focus on reproductive health. Stress has a direct impact on men’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Glucocorticoids, for example, may lower testosterone levels and sperm production. Alcohol, Tobacco and smoking can also hamper male fertility. Nutritional deficiency and underlying health conditions such as thyroid disease, obesity, advanced heart disease, cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, can also contribute to fertility decline in men.”
According to him, below are simple yet effective lifestyle alternatives that can help an individual optimize their sperm health and improve their fertility rates –
- Avoid Substance Abuse: Excessive smoking or alcohol consumption reduce sperm quality, increasing the likelihood of infertility. Regular alcohol consumption can lower testosterone levels, resulting in erectile dysfunction and decreased sperm production. Tobacco, on the other hand, has been linked to decrease sperm concentration, motility and DNA damage in sperm.
- De-stress: Overwhelming stress can result in erectile dysfunction, low libido, and low sperm count. Meditation, yoga, participating in hobbies, and seeking expert’s help can help individuals maintain a healthy balance between their personal and boundaries as well as ensure optimal mental health. Getting adequate sleep is also essential for good fertility health.
- Health Weight: Your BMI (Body Mass Index) is a metric that analyses your height and weight to determine whether or not your weight is healthy for conception. Being overweight or obese can have an adverse impact on the quality and quantity of your sperm, which can further lead to fertility issues.
- Well-balanced Diet: To keep your body nourished, eat a well-balanced diet rich in green vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits, and iron-rich foods. Fresh, whole foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, are high in antioxidants and vitamins that promote fertility. Vitamins C and E are very beneficial.
- Moderate Exercise: Being physically fit is also essential for a successful transition to parenthood. Exercise is essential in one’s fertility path. In today’s fast-paced life, a daily 30 minute brisk walk is also an effective technique to enhance your fertility rates. However, it is also crucial to understand that excessive exercise and rigorous muscle building workouts can impair the quality of your sperm.
- Hygiene: It is a critical aspect in maintaining reproductive health. The male genital area is situated outside the body to create sperms at a cooler temperature. Personal hygiene practices such as hand washing after using the lavatory, keeping the genital region clean, wearing clean and breathable pants, should be instilled in children at a young age in order to avoid diseases and infections.
- Regular STDs screenings: Sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Herpes can cause male infertility. Without a developed vaccination, prevention is the best way to protect against these diseases. Contraception should be encouraged and sex education should be imparted from a young age and included in high school curriculums.
- Work-life Changes: Heated computer systems in the pelvic area can raise scrotal temperature, resulting in a reduced sperm count. Hence, computers should be placed on tables while working. The testicles are located outside the body as they require a slightly cooler environment in order to create high-quality sperm. Sperm thrives at temperatures just below body temperature. Take frequent pauses outside if you operate in a hot area, such as a kitchen or a bakery. Metals, solvents, pesticides and non-water-based paints can all have an effect on sperm count, so take precautions to prevent direct contact with these pollutants.
- Regular Check-Ups: Maintain frequent health screenings to catch any underlying condition. Visiting a doctor on a frequent basis can help gain deeper understanding of one’s reproductive health. This is a prophylactic step that can assist maintain track of one’s health and uncover any issues that may lead to infertility later on.
- Limit Caffeine and Soy Intake: Exposure to high levels of caffeine and soy can interfere with your reproductive health. Therefore, it is important to limit your caffeine intake to at least 200mg a day (2 cups a day) during your fertility journey. Not more than 2 cups of black coffee should be consumed if caffeine is a must. Several studies have suggested that phytoestrogens present in soy and soy-derived products may alter male and female reproduction.
Whether you have been trying to conceive for a while or you are just considering giving it a try, it is important to maintain good health. Stay up to date on routine physicals and dental exams, and make what lifestyle changes you can. This might mean giving up smoking or limiting your alcohol consumption, but you want to do what you can to increase the chances of conceiving. If you have been having unprotected sex for 6 months or longer without conceiving, talk to a healthcare provider.