1. The F Word
Two to three million men in the UK could have a fertility problem and it may only become apparent when they want to start a family.
In my career I’ve seen a rise in the number of men coming forward with problems. These days we think about 25% of young men have sperm quality lower than they should and half of IVF cases have some element of male infertility.
As we find out in the documentary Alex Jones - Fertility and Me, men’s lifestyles can have a dramatic effect on the quality of sperm. The good news is that in many cases the damage can be reversed in as little as three months.
2. What's the problem?
While many male fertility problems are genetic, there are numerous lifestyle factors that affect the quality of sperm.
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Image credits: Bill Cheyrou/Alamy; Kzenon/Alamy; Zoonar GmbH/Alamy; Stuart Monk/Alamy.
3. Y-fronts or boxers?
If you want to give yourself the best chance of becoming a dad you can make simple lifestyle changes that will, in most cases, improve the quality of your sperm.
Firstly, it’s time to change your underwear! A recent study of 2500 men revealed tight pants had the biggest effect on sperm quality.
This is because the optimum temperature for sperm production is a couple of degrees cooler than the body’s temperature of 37 degrees.
Wearing tight pants raises the testicles closer to the body which in turn heats them up. This warm environment can lead to less active sperm, known as poor sperm motility, and eventually the production of fewer and abnormally shaped sperm.
But sperm production takes just three months, so wearing looser underwear and getting rid of tight jeans can reverse the problem in a short space of time.
4. Older men
Generally speaking, the time pressure to become a parent is greater for women than it is for men. Sperm production continues until the end of life and some men continue to have children into their 60s and 70s.
Although men continue to make fresh sperm, the quality decreases with age. So contrary to popular belief, men over 40 are about half as fertile as men under 25. This means it may take longer for their partner to become pregnant.
The chances of genetic errors can increase with a man's age and studies have shown that older fathers can raise the baby’s risk of autism, heart defects and epilepsy.
If you’re trying for a baby it’s worth remembering that by making just a few simple, healthy changes you can make a difference. Try to make time for relaxation, or take regular exercise which is known to reduce stress. This, as well as doing things like wearing the right underwear, can improve the quality of sperm and your chances of a baby.
5. Further steps
See your GP if making lifestyle changes doesn't work for you, or you have concerns about your fertility. They can offer a variety of tests...