According to the NHS, around one in seven couples or 3.5 million people in the UK, may have difficulty conceiving.
So to kick off National Fertility Awareness Week (beginning 31 October) we asked Professor Geeta Nargund, medical director of Create Fertility, her views around male fertility. She told The Huffington Post UK: “Scientific studies have indicated that age and lifestyle choices can have a detrimental affect a man’s sperm quality and quantity.”
Professor Allan Pacey at the University of Sheffield told HuffPost UK: “The compounds in cigarette smoke can alter the quality of the DNA in the sperm head and so increase the risk of infertility or miscarriage.
“Some scientists also think that if a father smokes prior to conception that it can also increase the risk of childhood disease (eg. leukaemia) in any children born. Would-be fathers are advised not to smoke.”
2. Tight Underwear
Professor Pacey said: “Evidence from a large epidemiological study of 2,500 men that I was involved with showed that men who wore tight underwear we about twice as likely to have a lower number of swimming sperm, compared to men who wore looser underpants such as boxer shorts.”
3. Smoking Cannabis
Professor Pacey said: “In the same epidemiological study [as the underwear], young men who smoked cannabis in the three months prior to providing a semen sample had a lower number of sperm with poor size and shape (we call this morphology).”
4. Sexually Transmitted Infections
Professor Pacey said: “There is good evidence that men with a sub-clinical sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia ejaculate fewer motile sperm and also greater number of sperm with poor DNA. Since infections like Chlamydia can be unnoticed, it is suggested that would be fathers get a sexual health screen.”
5. Poor Diet
“Men who eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day generally have better sperm than men who don’t. Therefore, having a healthy diet containing antioxidants is probably the best thing for healthy sperm,” advised Professor Pacey.
Geeta Nargund said: “Excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to lead to a higher likelihood of abnormal sperm, characterised by oddly shaped heads or poorly developed tails which means that they can have reduced ability to fertilise the egg. The message here is everything in moderation. Men should stop smoking to improve their fertility.”
“Excessive stress levels are also linked with men’s fertility problems.In addition, factors that increase testicular temperature such as hot baths, tight underwear and sitting at desk or at driving seat for long hours without taking a break can also damage sperm. Occupational exposure to radiation and chemicals such as metals and pesticides can damage sperm too,” said Nargund.
Dr Nargund said: “Although female fertility does suffer a much steeper and earlier decline, men also see a decline in sperm quality and count as they age and should not fall under the false impression that they are immune from age related decline – spurred by frequent media reports of 50+ fathers. There is an increase in children born with autism and ADHD when fathers are older than 45 years of age at conception.”
Men should also remember that it takes up to three months for sperm to be produced, from start to finish, so if men are looking to make these lifestyle changes they have to be done consistently over a period of time in the lead up to baby-making activities.