Thanks to new scientific and technological improvements, we now know that male infertility accounts for around 50 percent of infertility cases
Infertility already affects a big part of our society and the number of couples suffering from fertility issues keeps increasing. Studies have shown that, in the last 15 years, global fertility has decreased by about seven percent. At present, infertility affects 15 to 20 per cent of couples around the world with more and more couples seeking help through fertility treatment..
With infertility more common than it used to be, what are the causes?
It can be caused by various factors. In the case of men, the main problems for infertility are connected with genetic factors, anatomical alterations, neurological anomalies or infections. But different studies about this subject have proved that there are other reasons too such as nutrition, age, stress, exercise, weight gain and testicle temperature that are believed to impact sperm quality, either in a positive or negative way.
How to check fertility in men?
Performing an advanced sperm test is the best way to confirm if the fertility issue is related to the man. A semen analysis or sperm count test measures the concentration, motility and morphology of the sperm cells.
In addition to the conventional sperm tests, some clinics also offer alternative sperm tests, such as sperm DNA fragmentation tests, which are particularly recommended for men over 40, exposed to toxic agents, who have had urinary tract and genital infections or have been treated for cancer.
Another common test is the Annexin V-FITC Apoptosis Detection Test
This counts the number of dying sperm cells, otherwise known as ‘apoptotic, in the ejaculate fluid and in sperm samples prepared for assisted reproduction techniques. The test uses Annexin V protein to mark apoptotic cells which are then quantified using flow measurement known as ‘cytometry’. The quality of abnormally high levels of apoptosis by isolating sperm cells for elimination using Annexin V-MACS columns. Apoptosis, also known as selective cell necrosis, has a significant role in spermatogenesis (production or development of mature spermatozoa), eliminating sperm cells with structural and functional defects. An abnormally high level of apoptotic sperm can decrease male fertility.
Is it possible to improve sperm quality?
As lifestyle plays a very important role in fertility, we can try to recognise and improve the social and environmental factors that can have an impact.
The most common factors are:
Age as a reason for infertility normally affects more women than men, but it can still be a reason for the decrease in sperm quality.
Stress at work, at home, or even the yearning to become parents and related stress can create a negative impact on sperm quality. This is why patient care and emotional support by IVF clinics is so important.
Everything that affects us and our health in a negative way has a negative impact on our fertility. So a combination of not enough exercise and a changing diet can have a significant impact.
Equally weight issues and too many calories will deteriorate sperm quality and both women and men should pay attention on how they treat their bodies. It’s important to bear in mind that unhealthy lifestyle choices can impact fertility.
Some studies have also proved that besides the excessive fat intake and sugars, caffeine is another ingredient that doesn’t affect our fertility in a positive way.
The best diet to improve the quality of sperm is one including a lot of fruit and vegetables, such as the Mediterranean diet. It should always be a balanced diet joined by some sport.
There are published studies that confirm that exercise improves the sperm motility and morphology. However, excessive physical exercise can also have the opposite effect and decrease the quality of semen. Continuous and moderate exercise is the most beneficial.
Testicle temperature is fundamental for the correct spermatogenesis or production of sperm. Increased temperature can increase oxidative stress and compromise the integrity of sperm DNA. Therefore, daily activities such as cycling, sitting down for several hours in an office or even wearing tight-fitting clothes can all have a negative impact.
When patients are going through IVF treatment, clinics can offer support and guidance on how to improve sperm quality to offer the best chance of achieving their dream of a family.