Infertility Not Just a “Girl Thing”
Dr. Paul Tseng, Fertility specialist, Gynaecologist, Obstetrician at Virtus Fertility Centre says infertile couples are becoming more commonplace in Singapore and many women face terrible stress and anxiety believing they are to blame.
But infertility is not just a ‘girl thing’ according to Dr. Tseng. In fact, 40 percent of the infertility cases the clinic assists are due to male infertility.
“It’s another urban myth we have to confront,” says Dr. Tseng. “Men share the responsibility in terms of ensuring a couple can have children, and they have to step up to play their part. Many people simply do not know that male fertility is the single largest reason after a woman’s age influencing a couple’s chance of conception.”
Age certainly is a factor for men as well as women. Men provide less testosterone as they age, affecting the quality of sperm and sex drive. Older men tend to have slower-swimming sperm, and the shape of the sperm may also decline with age.
So what can men do to slow down the biological clock and keep their sperm healthy?
1. Keep your cool – particularly your testicles!
Testicles produce the best quality sperm when they are a few degrees below normal body temperature. Working in hot temperatures, or simply relaxing in a hot bath or sauna frequently, can increase testicular temperature - resulting in abnormal sperm count and quality. It’s best to avoid taking long hot baths on a regular basis! Where possible, avoid exposing the testicles to high temperatures. Who knows, plunging into an ice pool may be more than just a way of cooling off on a hot day.
2. Go ‘topless’ – leave the Wi-Fi laptop on the desk!
We know the convenience that technology brings, but lounging around with your laptop on your crotch may not be such a good idea. One study shows that the use of laptop computers connected to the internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increase sperm DNA fragmentation. The research took sperm samples from 29 healthy men, and then separated the samples into two containers - One was placed under a laptop that was transmitting a Wi-Fi signal while the other was placed in the exact same conditions without the laptop for four hours. 9% of the Wi-Fi exposed sperm showed DNA damage as opposed to 3% from the control.
3. ‘Eat healthy’ and load up on libido boosting foods
A healthy diet rich in fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, and whole grains makes a difference. Replace animal fats with olive oil; and look to include nutrients and vitamins, such as vitamin C and vitamin E that are renowned for their antioxidant qualities and believed to increase sperm health. Vitamin D, which derives from dietary oily fish and eggs is also beneficial to semen quality and count in males, increasing levels of testosterone, and boosting libido.
4. You might enjoy being mobile, but your sperm may not
Many countries in the region have high levels of what is called the “mobile penetration rate” – the number of mobile subscriptions per head of population. In Singapore the mobile penetration rate is 148.4%. Great news for those wanting to be connected and stay in touch with the world. But who would have known that this ‘commodity’ could have an effect on sperm quality? A study conducted in 2014, shows that the Radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) from mobile phones could potentially affect sperm development and function. Results from the study also suggest that mobile phone exposure may negatively affect sperm quality.
Dr Tseng also shared that, “As the age of both men and women are important factors in conception, although not to the same extent, we encourage couples to start trying for a baby early, and seek help early when necessary. Couples should also be educated on what affects their fertility and seek initial assessment (sperm test and a woman’s ovarian reserve) as a simple first step in preparation for conception.”