Highlighting Male Infertility This Men’s Health Awareness Month – June 2023

June is Men’s Health Awareness Month – a global effort to raise awareness of health problems that affect men, and an opportunity to encourage men to seek regular medical advice for early detection and effective treatment for diseases and health problems.

One health issue that is affecting fast-growing numbers of men worldwide, is infertility. Currently, a health issue in the male partner is the cause of infertility in as many as 40% of infertile couples, and this percentage is expected to increase, with recent studies confirming that, worldwide, sperm counts are dropping drastically. In this article, we look at how widespread male infertility has become, consider the link between men’s health and male infertility, and encourage men to seek medical advice, because, in almost all cases of male infertility, effective treatment is available.

Each year in June, Men’s Health Awareness Month turns the spotlight on men’s health, with the aim of increasing awareness of the health problems that affect men and to encourage men of all ages to seek medical advice.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) men go to doctors less frequently and consistently report that their healthcare needs are unmet. In addition, men across socioeconomic groups demonstrate higher rates of smoking, unhealthier dietary patterns, higher alcohol consumption levels and higher rates of injuries and interpersonal violence than women. These poor health behaviours and as well as the lower use of medical services are consistent across many countries and are linked to socioeconomic factors as well as to social norms around masculinity and hegemonic ideals.

Certainly, one of the health issues that are affecting fast-growing numbers of men world-wide is infertility.

How widespread is male infertility?

According to the world’s leading expert organisations, male infertility is a disease that results in the abnormal functioning of the male reproductive system.

While, traditionally, infertility was regarded as a women’s problem, the reality is that currently, as many as 40% of all infertility cases are due to a male factor.

In the vast majority of these cases, male infertility is due to problems with the sperm, and this percentage is set to increase even further, with a recent study revealing a concerning decline in sperm counts all over the world.

The research was published by an international team led by Professor Hagai Levine of Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Hadassah Braun School of Public Health, with Prof. Shanna Swan at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York, along with researchers in Denmark, Brazil, Spain, Israel and the USA. It shows that the decline in sperm counts in North America, Europe, and Australia – reported by the same team in 2017- has continued and even accelerated in the 21st century.

Professor Levine summarized the results as follows: “Overall, we’re seeing a significant worldwide decline in sperm counts of over 50% in the past 46 years, a decline that has accelerated in recent years”.

The link between men’s health and male fertility

The researchers say that the link between sperm count and infertility is well-recognised, and that the decline in sperm counts reflects a global crisis related to our modern environment and lifestyle, with broad implications for the survival of the human species.

However, sperm count is not only an indicator of male fertility; it also is an indicator of men’s health, with low levels being associated with increased risk of chronic disease, testicular cancer and a decreased lifespan.

Professor Swan explained: “Low sperm counts do not only affect men’s fertility, but have serious ramifications for men’s health more generally, and are linked with other adverse trends, termed together as testicular dysgenesis syndrome. The troubling declines in men’s sperm concentration and total sperm counts at over 1% each year as reported in our paper are consistent with adverse trends in other men’s health outcomes, such as testicular cancer, hormonal disruption, and genital birth defects. This clearly cannot continue unchecked.”

Similarly, it is well known that poor health also affects male fertility. In the simplest terms, male fertility requires healthy sperm. Poor lifestyle choices and the lifestyle diseases that result from it negatively affect your overall health and, therefore, compromise male fertility as well.

What causes male infertility?

Environmental and lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake and obesity are known to negatively affect male fertility. In addition, exposure to environmental pollutants and toxins can be directly toxic to sperm, resulting in decreased numbers and poor quality, leading to infertility.

Furthermore, a large group of men seeking fertility treatment are also dealing with lifestyle diseases, notably high insulin levels, thyroid problems and autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases such as hyperinsulinemia and hyperprolactinemia, play a significant role in the quality of a man’s sperm and, as a result, the quality of embryos (eggs fertilised with sperm).

In addition, there is a long list of medical conditions that can also cause male infertility. These could include, for example, blocks in the testes or the ducts leading out from the testes related to infection, or problems with the production of sperm. Testicular failure to produce sperm can be due to varicoceles or medical treatments that impair sperm-producing cells. Hormonal disorders could result in abnormalities in hormones produced by the pituitary gland, hypothalamus and testicles.

There could be problems with sexual activity or even genetic problems. Male fertility can also be harmed by the surgical removal of the testicles due to cancer or by chemotherapy or radiation that damages sperm quantity, quality and DNA. In addition, the use of anabolic steroids, for example, can cause abnormal semen parameters such sperm count and shape.

Male infertility can be treated

Fortunately, all of these medical conditions, as well as the vast majority of other causes of infertility, can be treated medically – and with excellent results!

Due to great advances in medical technology, there are a range of treatments, procedures and options for male infertility, including advanced technologies that ensure even men who were previously considered completely sterile have an excellent chance to have their own biological children.

Seek professional medical advice

Selecting the right treatment for male infertility requires identifying the exact cause of your male infertility challenge – and this can only be achieved through a consultation with a fertility expert.

If you are concerned about your fertility, don’t delay! Immediately contact a fertility specialist who will be able to identify the cause of your fertility problem and provide expert information regarding available treatment options.

At Medfem we believe in helping you reach your family dream through:

* World-Class Fertility for Everyone – we believe in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone
* A Positive Fertility Journey – It is our joy and commitment to give you a positive outcome to your fertility journey
* Delivered With Empathy & Caring – So you may have a fond memory, of a feeling of empathy, caring and being part of the Medfem family

If you would like to meet one of our fertility specialists at Medfem Fertility Clinic, simply click here to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.

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We look forward to meeting you at Medfem Fertility Clinic!

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