Much like female fertility, male fertility can be a complex issue. According to reproductive medicine specialist Dr Merwyn Jacobson from Vitalab Fertility Clinic in Sandton, Johannesburg, up to 40% of infertility cases can be attributed to male infertility.
Just because a man produces a large quantity of sperm, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t have fertility issues.
Lifestyle factors that could negatively affect sperm:
• Alcohol consumption, smoking and drug use.
• An unhealthy or unbalanced diet can lead to obesity, which has been linked to the production of poor-quality sperm.
• Obesity can also lead to hormone imbalances, which also affects the quality of sperm produced.
What can be done?
• Don’t stop trying. Men with low sperm counts are often advised to abstain from sex in order to improve their sperm count, but Dr Jacobson believes that they should “keep the rivers flowing”. He says: “Long periods of abstinence lead to decreased levels of sperm due to a build-up of fluid, which causes the sperm to become diluted. It can also lead to a decrease in the quality of sperm. The longer sperm is stored, the more it deteriorates due to the free radicals and toxins in the system.”
• Take folic acid and zinc supplements. “Research suggests that folic acid may enhance a man’s sperm quality as folate may reduce the risk of chromosomal defects in sperm cells, which can lead to abnormalities in the child. Folic acid should, however, be taken in conjunction with zinc in order to improve sperm quality,” says Dr Jacobson.
• Avoid soy products. According to a study published by Oxford University Press’ online publication, Human Production, men who eat soy foods are more likely to have a lower sperm count. Dr Jacobson explains that soy is a phytoestrogen, which can result in abnormal oestrogen levels in men and decrease FSH (a follicle-stimulating hormone), therefore decreasing the stimulation of sperm production.
• Lose the lubricants. Research suggests that lubricants may be toxic to sperm and may interfere with the role of cervical mucus. “Artificial lubricants may prevent sperm from reaching cervical mucus in time, resulting in the death of the sperm before reaching the uterus,” explains Dr Jacobson. He recommends Pre-seed as a safe lubricant as it is balanced to match fertile fluids.
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