pregnancy

Everything you need to know about male fertility, according to a doctor.

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Thanks to our brand partner, Elevit

While my pregnancy days are behind me, some of my good friends have just started their journey to begin a family. And because I must give off a ‘wise owl on all things conception’ vibe, I have become the go-to person for advice as they start planning and trying to conceive.

But I am definitely not an expert and although I can use my own experiences to discuss the steps I took prenatally – such as beginning Elevit one month before trying – when it comes to the questions about male fertility, I embarrassingly have very little information to pass on.

In fact, when my husband and I were on our own journey, I don’t even think we discussed his fertility at all.

And yes, reflecting on this makes me feel a bit silly, but it turns out I’m not alone. 

A recent study found that 79 per cent of respondents did not know that a man's diet can affect sperm quality and 48 per cent of respondents thought it was only women who needed to prepare their bodies for conception.

But it definitely takes two to tango and despite my ignorance, male fertility is just as important as a woman’s when it comes to making babies.

This is why using a preconception vitamin like Menevit can be beneficial.

Australia's leading sperm health supplement can help improve a couple's chances of conception by supporting sperm health, and is suitable for men who are planning for a baby and want to play their part in a healthy conception. 

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The preconception male fertility supplement contains a unique combination of antioxidants, including Vitamin C, zinc, Vitamin E, folic acid, lycopene, garlic oil and selenium which are all designed to support sperm health.

Ideally, Menevit should be taken once daily for 3 months prior to planned conception as the sperm production cycle is approximately 72 days.

While optimising sperm health is important, there are other critical factors to consider regarding male fertility. 

So, to find out more Mamamia spoke with fertility specialist, Dr Robert Lahoud, to tell us everything there is to know about male fertility.  

What are the causes of male infertility?

While incredibly complex, Dr Lahoud says that some of the main causes of male infertility include:

1. Genetic reasons as some genes can cause infertility.

2. Past trauma to the testes can cause low sperm count.

3. Past history of infection, including some STIs, can cause a blockage of the ejaculating duct.

4. Severe medical treatments such as chemotherapy.

5. Lifestyle factors like smoking and heavy drinking which may deteriorate sperm quality.

What are the different types of male infertility? 

“One can look at distinguishing sperm abnormalities by the severity of which there are three main types,” says Dr Lahoud.

The first, which Dr Lahoud describes as the most severe form, is when there is no sperm in the ejaculate. This is called azoospermia and is either due to a blockage or a severe sperm production problem in the testes. 

Sperm test abnormalities may also show reduced speed numbers or poor movement of sperm. These can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. 

Then there is sperm DNA damage which is detected on a separate test. This is caused by environmental damage to DNA which are the genetic building blocks.  

“For example, smoking may damage the sperm DNA. This may weaken the embryos and result in infertility and miscarriage,” he tells Mamamia.  

Image: Getty.

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How does sperm affect fertility?

“Sperm has two main functions: one is to swim so it can get to and fertilise the egg, and the second is the transmission of male genetics (DNA) into the egg to form an embryo,” explains Dr Lahoud.

If the sperm count is low, or the mobility and movement is slow then the likelihood is that the sperm will not be able to fertilise eggs. The more severe the sperm abnormality, the less likely the sperm will function to fertilise an egg. This clearly can become a major reason for infertility. 

In some cases, there is no sperm at all, making natural fertility impossible, whereas in other cases the sperm abnormality is much more subtle. However, this can still reduce fertility. 

“Achieving a pregnancy is like a large puzzle. It is important to find all the missing pieces to help complete the puzzle,” he says.

How is male infertility diagnosed and what are the treatments?

The diagnosis for infertility is normally relatively straightforward and done through a sperm test which may need to be repeated to be validated. 

However, “in some cases a sperm DNA test is required,” Dr Lahoud explains.

With more severe infertility cases, Dr Lahoud says that they “look at ways of getting sperm into the egg via insemination or more likely through a form of IVF which is very effective – even in the most severe cases.”

But for some infertility issues, such as low sperm quality, a change in lifestyle can be an effective treatment.

“A good lifestyle with a healthy diet and exercise can help. Smokers should stop smoking, men should not consume too much alcohol, and they should especially not binge drink,” Dr Lahoud says.

Additionally, Dr Lahoud says that “we often use antioxidant treatments with vitamins to help improve the sperm quality.”

These positive lifestyle habits can also more generally help prepare sperm for conception.

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Image: Canva.

If my partner has received an infertility diagnosis, is there still hope? 

Often women can feel the brunt of the mental load when it comes to falling pregnant but when a male experiences issues of infertility, it can directly impact their self-esteem and confidence. 

“When the sperm count is abnormal, it can be confronting to the male who is often disappointed and takes it to heart,” says Dr Lahoud.

But the situation is not uncommon, with approximately half of all infertility issues coming from the side of the male he explains. 

Despite this, there is usually a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Even if things look very bleak, as long as there is some sperm, we can usually still make some embryos and give people a good chance of falling pregnant.”

As with anything, though, knowledge is power. If you or your partner have any questions about your fertility, seek out your healthcare professional.

Menevit Pre-conception Sperm Health is a multivitamin supplement that has been specially formulated to help promote sperm health.

Find Elevit and Menevit products online or in-store at your local pharmacy.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use.

FiftyFive5 Pregnancy & Planning Research, April 2021.

Feature Image: Canva/Mamamia.

Elevit
If you are planning to start a family, ask your partner to take Menevit Pre-conception Sperm Health 3 months prior to planned conception. Menevit contains a unique combination of antioxidants and can improve a couples chances of conception by supporting sperm health. Click here to learn more about Menevit . Always read the label and follow the directions for use.