By LOUISE JOHNSON
We’ve just celebrated all those dads in our lives and hey presto, it’s Fertility Week –a perfect time to talk about men and fertility, no?
If you only ever read women’s magazines, you could have the misconception (pardon the pun) that becoming a parent doesn’t involve men at all, that only women struggle with infertility and that it’s only a woman’s age that counts when it comes to conceiving and making healthy babies.
Let’s bring the blokes into the picture:
1. Male infertility affects about one in 20 men. For about one in five (heterosexual) couples having trouble getting pregnant, the fertility problem lies solely with the guy.
2. A man’s age also impacts on a woman’s ability to conceive and have a healthy baby. The quality of a man’s sperm decreases over time. As a man ages, it takes longer for him to get a woman pregnant. There’s also an increased risk of a woman not conceiving at all. Whatever the age of the mother, the risk of miscarriage is higher if the father is over 45. As men age, the children they father are at greater risk of autism, mental health problems and learning difficulties.
3. Smokers beware! Tobacco smoking is not only a well-known case of lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease, it also reduces fertility. Men who smoke heavily produce up to 20 per cent fewer sperm. Tobacco smoke also damages the sperm’s DNA – the genetic material that’s going to ‘make up’ your child.