By Dr. Shrutika Thakkar
Infertility is a major global health issue that affects millions of people of reproductive age. According to the data available, it is said that worldwide, between 48 million couples and 186 million individuals have infertility issues. Infertility problems mean couples who, despite frequent unprotected sex, cannot conceive a child naturally. In up to half of these couples, male infertility plays a partial role.
Although male infertility affects most of the population, awareness of this condition is relatively low. Low sperm production, abnormal sperm function or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm are some of the reasons that cause male infertility. In addition, illness, injuries, chronic health problems, lifestyle choices and other factors can also cause male infertility.
While we understand that the inability to conceive can be difficult and stressful, couples must realize that various treatments are available to treat this condition effectively and successfully. Before we understand possible treatments, let us identify why male infertility is a growing concern in our society.
Male Infertility & Its Impact on Society
According to a survey conducted across nine cities and endorsed by the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction (ISAR), about 46 per cent of couples in India are keen to have a child and belong to the age group of 30 to 40 years and seek medical advice as they have infertility. The data also claimed that close to 34 per cent of couples between 21 and 30 opted for Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) to help them conceive a child as they could not do so naturally.
Today, more couples, especially in Tier I and II cities across India, are opting for IVF treatment and ART to help them have a child. According to World Health Organization studies, one in every four couples in the developing world suffers from infertility problems.
In a study, doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences reported that over 12–18 million couples are diagnosed with infertility annually in India. They have said that three decades ago, the sperm count of an average Indian adult male used to be 60 million/ml, while now it has reduced to about 20 million/ml. Most men exposed to high temperature at work (through welders, dyers, blast furnace workers and those employed in cement and steel factories) were at a higher risk for male infertility.
Although studies on sperm quality and quantity of Indian men in India are limited, there is no doubt that male infertility is rising. The current need of the hour is to understand the factors leading to this issue and how it can be controlled before it becomes an even bigger health crisis.
How are the current lifestyle habits contributing to male infertility?
Male infertility is directly associated with sperm production in a male individual. Some essential lifestyle habits that can impact sperm production include:
Evidence shows that smoking by men can lead to DNA damage in sperm. It has been found that men with elevated sperm with DNA damage may have reduced fertility and higher miscarriage rates. In addition, smoking is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction (ED), which can make getting pregnant a challenge.
A man’s age can affect fertility, especially if they do smoke or drink alcohol regularly. The impact of age may go beyond just male infertility. Some evidence even suggests that older men are at a greater risk of fathering children at higher risk for congenital disabilities and developmental disorders.
Human cells do not function properly when they do not receive the required nutrients. That is why a diet high in processed oils or not balanced with proper vitamins and minerals can affect the quality and quantity of sperm in men.
When it comes to male infertility, men who are obese or overweight tend to have a bigger problem with sperm production, as obesity can also lead to a decreased sex drive.
Stress and environmental factors like pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and other chemicals can affect the sperm’s ability to bind to an egg during fertilization.
In conclusion, although male infertility is still a taboo in our society, it is only when we address these issues can couples feel confident about seeking treatments and solutions from recognized experts and hospitals. #Letstalkfertility is the first step to addressing the various problems and taboos around infertility and its related issues.
(The author is Director, Medansh Multispeciality Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)