The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that men’s fertility rates have dropped to dramatic levels in the developed world. The question is…why?
Declining fertility in Western men
No article on men’s health can be complete without some mention of the declining sexual fertility in the current generation. Too many people still consider any reason for a couple’s inability to conceive to be a purely female problem; the male is assumed perfect, yet science is proving this is not the case.
During my twenty-two years of working with conception care, the number of so-called infertile couples was one in six; with more female than male problems. Now almost twenty years later that number has risen to where fertility issues are equal in both sexes. I lost count of the number of times couples asked ’Why us? How come we are affected and other couples get children they don’t want?’
One recent report begun in 1973 and finished in 2011 by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, went so far as to say the sperm count in men from Western countries including the USA, Europe, and Australia have the lowest sperm count in the world. With the sperm concentration declining more than 50% during the time the data was collected, this strongly suggests this has been caused by the overall bad health of men in these countries. How can that be? Aren’t we recognised as being great lovers of sport?
One answer could be that although our men do love their sport, too often they watch the game with a can of their favourite beverage handy, rather than participate. This answer is however much too simplistic, there are a lot more reasons why today’s young men are not as fertile as their fathers.
The prevalence of hormone-disrupting chemicals
Since the Second World War our planet has been saturated with hormone-disrupting chemicals. These substances called xenoestrogens (xeno from the Greek word ‘strange’) are a group of synthetic hormones used in the manufacture of the contraceptive pill, phthalates, pesticides, PCB’s, herbicides, and plastic containers.
These substances are inhaled and enter the human body through the food chain, where they mimic the action of naturally occurring hormones disrupting the testosterone production that is needed to make healthy sperm. If the testosterone levels are out of balance sperm production becomes compromised. This not only affects the current generation but also the developing foetuses in pregnant women. This leads to the next generation being born with low testosterone levels.
Other commonly used hormone-disrupting chemicals include: paints, fire retardants (used in our carpets, soft furnishings, and building materials), petro-chemicals, and formaldehydes (which are used widely in the carpentry trades). There are literally hundreds of chemicals used in our environment that can affect the quality and count of sperm, erectile power, the libido, and our moods. Continual exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace can also cause psychological and other endocrine hormonal imbalances. If you are working with or taking a substance that you suspect is causing ill effects, go online and check it out; if it is harmful it will be well documented.
Stress and fertility
Stress too has a detrimental effect on hormone production. As concern turns to anxiety and depression, the heart rate speeds up. This increases the blood pressure, and the whole system switches to full alert. If the body is in this state of fight or flight indefinitely, the nervous system and the hormone-producing glands will become hyperactive. If there are any genetic weakness in any of endocrine glands the body goes into shock or fatigue sets in.
Men experiencing continual stress can have problems with sperm development and impotency. Statistics show that the level of stress from infertility reaches its peak when a couple have been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for three years.
Other reasons related to male infertility include functional problems such as: erectile dysfunction, low libido, premature ejaculation, painful erection, varicocele, and other blockages.
The above problems may be caused by undetected disease; candida, damage from childhood mumps, herpes, chronic fatigue, anti-bodies, chlamydia, or other genito-urinary infections. Diagnosis is easily done through your doctor and appropriate medication given. But it is important to wait until the course of medicine is finished before trying to conceive. This is because the residue in the body could have a detrimental effect on the developing sperm. It can also cause abnormalities in the developing embryo leading to a failed conception or miscarriage.
Although the damage from cigarettes is well documented, other aggravating factors include: the excessive consumption of alcohol, anabolic drugs/steroids, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. All these substances weaken the immune system, cause abnormal sperm development, reduce the count and motility of sperm, and cause miscarriage.
The answer lies in our individual genetic patterns; we are a great and diverse people coming from many different countries with many different genetic weaknesses. Some can cope with pollution while others develop asthma at the slightest change in air temperature, we are all different. There is no one size that fits all. This is also the reason why some people can tolerate gluten and pharmaceutical drugs while others can’t.
Looking for remedies
Fortunately, there are many natural remedies that can improve all the above problems. And there are just as many ways the body can be assisted without natural or medical assistance. The obvious one is to limit the amount of chemicals entering the body. I.e. stop smoking, look at the diet, begin some sort of exercise regime, undergo a liver cleanse. Check there are no toxic chemicals in the work and home environment.
Before starting a new regime, I suggest all would-be fathers-to-be have an overall health assessment to eliminate past or current infection and a semen analysis. Then, in three months (the time it takes to develop new sperm) have another test to see if the above changes did help.
The above article is based upon ‘Fertile Fathers’, the companion book to the best-selling ‘Natural Conception – Mother Nature’s help for infertile couples’, published by Ruth Sharkey.
Hagai Levine, Niels Jørgensen, Anderson Martino-Andrade, Jaime Mendiola, Dan Weksler-Derri, Irina Mindlis, Rachel Pinotti, Shanna H. Swan; 2017. Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis, Human Reproduction Update, https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmx022
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