EVERYTHING applies equally to both partners.
In clinic, I will often see women only seeking assistance for fertility but making a baby is a two-person sport.
Around 20% of fertility issues are related to men alone.
30% are due to combined men and women.
That’s about 50% of the time that male factors contribute to infertility.
All the factors above; diet, stress and toxic chemicals can affect the health of a man’s sperm. In addition to this, sperm is affected by heat so things like hot tubs, tight clothing, saunas can impact sperm health too.
It is important to also understand the reference ranges in sperm analysis. Too often do I hear that a male has been told they are “fine” but when I look at their results, they are not optimal. There is a Grand Canyon of difference between fine and optimal when we are talking fertility.
The ranges come from the World Health Organisation in 2010 and are actually lower than what existed previously. Data came from 4500 men, 14 countries on 4 continents and were based on a time to-pregnancy up to and including 12 months measure.
From that, they set up ranges that classified the sperm quality in percentiles, from 2.5% right through to 95%. The lower the reference range, the less of chance of fathering a child in under a year.
The reference ranges that are generally used in Australia to be “fine” is the 5th percentile.
To put that another way, the lab ranges for “fine” are the bare minimum that could be achieved for pregnancy within 12 months.
Most couples that I know want better than the bare minimum when it comes to fertility. They want to optimise their chances.
In clinic I will often take couple through the results and compare them to the 50th percentile to give a better idea how their sperm health compares to optimal sperm health.
What does this mean for you?
Partners need to be involved to optimise your chances of fertility.
The science tells us what we instinctively know. Your partners sperm health has a huge role to play in fertility and it can be improved in similar ways to yours.
The diet and lifestyle changes need to be consistent for both of you.
A word about assisted reproduction and sole parenthood.
For those of you embarking on artificial reproduction techniques or choosing to be a single parent this still applies.
Normally donors to fertility clinics have their sperm screened for all optimal sperm health markers. Its in the clinic best interests to supply you with the highest possible quality sperm.
If it’s your partner that is supplying the sperm, then I always encourage all the factors discussed to be addressed. It simply increases the likelihood of success if there are more healthy sperm.
If you have made a private arrangement with someone then I encourage you to have the conversation about his health too for the same reason.
Written by Wendy Burke