Over the last 3 to 4 decades, average sperm count in men as well as sperm quality, have declined alarmingly on a global scale. 1 out of 20 men, at present, are facing different fertility challenges. The growing numbers can be accredited to the exposure to environmental chemicals that disrupt ones endocrine balance.
Dr. Shweta Goswami, Associate Director- Fertility, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Noida says: “Ever-increasing cases of obesity and the trend of delaying parenthood, be it due to work or any other personal reason, have also been great contributing factors. It is pertinent to understand that the reasons behind male infertility can vary greatly, though these are usually linked to congenital, acquired and idiopathic factors that directly or indirectly affect the sperm."
What do the numbers say?
Dr Goswami tells IANSlife: “One out of six couples who are trying to conceive are not able to achieve pregnancy naturally and are diagnosed with infertility. In fact, an article on Male Infertility, published in The Lancet on December 10, 2020, clearly suggests that ï¿½8ï¿½12 percent of couples globally, with a malefactor being a primary or contributing cause in approximately 50 percent of couples’."
Impact of the current pandemic on male fertility
Ever since the first case of the pandemic was reported in 2019, experts all across the globe have been thriving seamlessly to explicate the unknowns of the deadly virus, Covid-19. While many new facts have come to light, studies are still going on to find out more about the virus and its side effects. Mounting evidence has pointed towards the negative impact of the virus on male infertility, she says.
“A study, ï¿½COVID-19 and male reproductive function: a prospective, longitudinal cohort study’, published in the journal ï¿½Reproduction’ in January 2021, suggests that the human reproductive system may be potentially vulnerable to COVID-19 infection and the same can lead to significant impairments in semen volume, progressive motility, sperm morphology, sperm concentration and the number of spermatozoa.
“It is not uncommon for a virus to attack the male reproductive tract as previously documented evidence has shown that there are a variety of viruses that can severely impact male fertility. In light of the global decline in sperm quality, the virus has led to further concerns," says the expert.
The expert burst male infertility myths
If we are talking about male infertility how can we forget the myths that surround it? Here are a few myths and misconceptions related to male infertility that need to be busted:
Myth 1 - Infertility is a female problem and males have nothing to do with it
This common myth prevailed in our society for a very long time. In fact, there are still people out there who believe that infertility is only related to females. It is important to understand that infertility is not a gender-specific problem and can affect both females as well as males. Male infertility predominantly depends upon the quality and quantity of the sperm. Studies suggest that two-thirds of the males with fertility issues have found to have low sperm count or impaired sperm quality. Rest can be contributed to problems in the male reproductive tract, genetic conditions, hormonal imbalance and other factors.
Myth 2 - Only women need to take care of their health when it comes to planning for pregnancy.
This is completely false as the quality of the sperm is as important as the quality of the egg. There are various factors that can affect the quality of the sperm which include excessive smoking, drinking, substance abuse, exposure to harmful chemicals, wearing tight fitted underwear’s and sexually transmitted diseases. As most of the problems concerning male infertility are related to sperm, it is extremely important to incorporate healthy habits into your daily routine.
Myth 3 - Men can have children as long as they live
No doubt males do not have a fertility window like females but this does not mean that they can impregnate their partner anytime they want. Although it is possible for some males to have children in their 70s, the time taken for or achieving the pregnancy is considerably longer than males who are below 45 years of age. This happens because sperm quality is likely to decrease after a certain age. It is also important to note that the chances of miscarriage and premature birth are higher when the man is older. Not only this, if you are planning a pregnancy after crossing 70 years of age, the child is quite likely to have genetic, chromosomal and developmental defects.