Infertility is when the male or female reproductive system fails to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, says the World Health Organization. It has been found that 40 per cent of infertility cases are related to men, 40 per cent to women and 20 per cent can be traced in both sexes.
“However, unlike women, who have an acute knowledge of their biological clocks, a significant population of men are still not aware of their own reproductive health,” said Dr Kshitiz Murdia, CEO and co-founder, Indira IVF.
This Men’s Health Week — being observed from June 14-20 — there is a need to create more awareness about men’s biological systems and fertility issues they face, say experts.
According to a study based on male fertility and reproductive health published in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, men were only able to identify 51 per cent of the risk factors and 45 per cent of the health issues associated with male infertility. They were most aware of the modifiable risk factors for infertility (like sexually transmitted infections, smoking cigarettes), relative to their knowledge of fixed risk factors (delayed puberty, size of the testicles) and the attendant health issues (cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension).
According to Dr Murdia, more than half of the sample expressed an interest in obtaining information about male fertility and reproductive health.
“Even today, discussions about infertility in men are uncommon; it is a taboo and the condition is not regarded as the root cause of couples experiencing challenges to conceive. This can lead to trauma and stress, especially in Indian society, which places immense importance on child-bearing. Men usually don’t have the right knowledge and perception about their reproductive health due to the lack of education. Most men don’t see urologists or infertility experts until required. It is necessary that men are aware and understand male infertility for getting early diagnosis and treatment, where needed,” Dr Murdia told indianexpress.com.
Why is it necessary to address male fertility issues?
According to Dr Murdia, addressing male fertility issues “will limit the extent of stigma women have faced with respect to infertility through generations”.
While in simple words, the condition means that a man is unable to father a child biologically, in scientific terms, male infertility indicates that either sperm are not healthy or they are not being produced, said Dr Amitabha Ghosh, consultant- internal medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, Palam Vihar, Gurugram.
How is male infertility diagnosed?
As per Dr Ghosh, a general physical exam, semen analysis, scrotal ultrasound, transrectal ultrasound, hormonal analysis, sometimes chromosomal analysis, and testicular biopsy is done.
Male infertility can occur due to a lesser count of sperms in semen and for that purpose semen test is done. At the same time, erectile dysfunction also needs attention which can be caused due to uncontrolled diabetes leading to neuropathy. Some hormonal tests can be additionally suggested in such cases. Male infertility check-ups are very easy; the picture gets clear in semen analysis, hence, in case of doubt, these tests should be opted for, said Dr Ruby Sehra, senior consultant, gynaecology, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute.
“Lack of awareness in the society limits and influences the approach towards male infertility. There is an equal contribution of a male partner for conception. As per a section of society, only women are blamed if a couple finds it difficult to have a child biologically, and in the majority of cases, only women are asked to get themselves tested. Neither women nor men should be shamed for it,” said Dr Sehra.
What is the treatment like?
Supplements like coenzyme q, selenium, vitamin E, C helps to increase sperm count.
One should be treated for erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, hormone treatment, and can use assisted reproductive technology, if required, said Dr Ghosh.
Along with it, one needs to practice stress management, and get treatment for associated factors like diabetes, he added.
Experts also mention that along with paying attention to the timing of the intercourse and avoiding the use of lubricants, one should be working on their general health and well-being too. “Avoid alcohol, smoking, and have a healthy lifestyle, including diet and fitness,” said Dr Ghosh.
Understanding certain lifestyle practices can help all men to maintain good reproductive health, advised Dr Murdia.
Visit your doctor regularly: If you want to maintain your overall reproductive health, you should make an appointment with your doctor right away. Your doctor can keep a track of your health and take actions to prevent the issues beforehand.
Quit smoking, tobacco and limit alcohol: Smoking is toxic. Smoking is one of the prominent reasons that cause erectile dysfunction in men. Quitting can overcome this situation. Also, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can affect your fertility too. Occasional drinking may be considered acceptable.
Practise good hygiene: This is one of the most basic rules to follow. Practise regular genital hygiene to prevent the accumulation of germs in your genitals that can potentially cause infections.
Manage lifestyle disorders: Obesity can affect fertility in several ways. Maintenance of a proper nutritional diet and right physical activity will ensure that the reproductive system is in good health. Exercise for at least 15-20 minutes daily and minimise stress as much as possible.
Prevent infections: Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infertility in men. This can be kept in check by limiting your number of sexual partners, using protection during intercourse and going for regular tests to screen for STIs.
“Fertility challenges are often quite stressful for both men and women. Greater awareness of risks and lifestyle factors associated with infertility can allow men to take adequate steps to safeguard their reproductive health and overall well-being. Providing focused reproductive health information about male fertility could bring issues to light and raise awareness to empower men to take charge of their own health,” said Dr Murdia.