Infertility is an issue that affects both men and women - so why do we look to “fix” ourselves first?
There often is a hyper-focus on female fertility. Cycle mapping, injecting hormones, invasive ultrasounds, and multiple specialist visits are just the tip of the iceberg for treatment options - and can often leave us worried, on a hormonal roller coaster, or just burnt out. Our lady parts even have their own specialist - but are our male counterparts afforded the same education, support and resources when it comes to fertility? After all, it takes two to tango.
Fertility is a team sport, but the conversation can feel very female
What Is The Male Factor?
On average, 40-50% of all infertility cases are caused by a “male factor” reproductive issue. This is often caused by:
- Low sperm count (not enough swimmers)
- Blockages (hurdles for the swimmers), or
- Abnormal sperm function (swimmers without any swimming lessons)
Because the most common side effect of male infertility is the inability to conceive a child, many men are not encouraged to explore their reproductive health until they are trying to start a family, and struggling to fall pregnant. With limited opportunities and societal expectations to become educated about their own fertility, many men do not undergo the rigmarole of treatments we naturally volunteer to when experiencing fertility issues. For many, male fertility isn't explored until analysing the woman's reproductive health has been exhausted.
What can affect male fertility?
We've rounded up the top reasons why men's fertility may be worth questioning in the conception equation. Here goes:
You're finding it difficult to conceive
This can be due to an inherent disorder, hormonal imbalance, dilated veins in the testes, or blockages in the reproductive system.
He's experiencing sexual function issues
Difficulty ejaculating, low volumes of ejaculate, low libido/sexual desire, and erectile dysfunction are typical examples of male reproductive health issues.
Swelling in the testes
A lump or other painful foreign fluid in the testes blockages may prevent the flow and delivery of sperm.
The presence of Gynecomastia
This abnormal breast tissue swelling may be due to reduced male hormones (testosterone) or increased female hormones (oestrogen).
How Can Men Do Support Their Reproductive Health?
Like women, men have options for fertility-based treatments and resources (they just might not know it).
Nutritional support for male fertility
There are also many nutritional supplements available to correct deficiency and promote male fertility, such as:
- Arginine and Carnitine (amino acids) - improves sperm count
- Selenium - required for adequate testosterone production
- Vitamin B5, C, and E - support healthy sperm development
- CoQ10 (antioxidant) - associated with an increased chance of pregnancy
- Zinc- essential to sperm motility and ability to fertilise
Mental health and fertility
Stress negatively impacts the DNA in the sperm, which results in difficulty with fertilisation. Reducing oxidising stress can improve sperm health and male fertility levels.
A recent UK study of 22 men experiencing infertility and going through IVF found that all had delayed seeking help.
“Take into account that men are notoriously slow to seek medical help for standard complaints and add in the cultural baggage that fertility is linked to male identity, it’s not surprising that men are reluctant to take the first step”
Fertility is a team sport, but the conversation can feel very female. Birth control management falls largely on our shoulders and egg freezing is gaining popularity while men continue to believe they’ll procreate until they’re 90. No wonder we feel responsible for fertility. Can we share the load?