Killing the balls softly


Dear Dr. G,

My wife and I have been married for eight years and she became pregnant within a year of the wedding.

We are obviously very blessed with our daughter; However, ever since the first pregnancy, we have been trying in the last six years with no success.

We reluctantly accept defeat and went to see the fertility specialist.

I was shocked to learn that my sperms were somewhat deficient and apparently my lifestyle is to be blamed.

I was told by the doctors that cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking are the main culprits.

My wife also reckons hot showers and steam baths are destroying spermatogenesis.

I personally worry about the radiation emitted by the handphones and laptops are slowly killing my sperms.

Besides, I also hear that tight jeans are also responsible for the poor performances in the ejaculations.

Of course, I will change my lifestyle to enhance the gametes, but I am keen to put Dr. G on the spot to debunk the facts and fiction that are killing my balls softly.

Do you think I should place the cell phones away from my crown jewels?

Hope you can help me and many men to over-cum the obstacles of fertility.

Regards

Infertility Indran

The American Society of Reproductive medicine defines infertility as the inability to achieve pregnancy following twelve months of regular unprotective sexual intercourse. Many couples also face the issues of secondary infertility, despite success in the first round. Fifteen per cent of couples are believed to encounter problems with primary infertility, and at least a quarter may be due to male-factor infertility. Infertility in men is primarily determined by the number of sperms ejaculated less than 15 million per ml, the viable sperms having less than 4% normal morphology and less than 40% of the gametes being motile.

The most obvious cause of sperm deterioration is age, even for men. The average time to pregnancy is four and a half months for a 25-year-old man, while men aged 40 will achieve pregnancy only after two years. The other culprits that destroy spermatogenesis are smoking and alcohol consumption. Cigarettes are well recognized to affect lower sperm counts and motility. On the other hand, a male partner who consumes more than 20 units of alcohol per week is likely to take longer for his partner to conceive.

Another well-known factor that impairs sperm production is the exposure of the scrotum to higher temperatures. Hot tubs and saunas are documented to increase testicular temperature resulting in reciprocal impairment of sperm quality. The same principles apply to men wearing tight jeans and undergarments, squeezing genitals closer to core body temperature causing poorer spermatogenesis.

Another lifestyle that has been implicated to cause male fertility is cycling. In fact, there is no real strong data to support cycling is impairing spermatogenesis. One study conducted with extreme variables like cycling for more than two hours on rocky terrain with narrow bike seats were said to impair male fertility. However, normal cyclists with regular seats are generally not associated with poor sperm quality.

Amongst these myths and facts, modern-day gadgets and devices are also thought to have implications on spermatogenesis. Heat and radiofrequency from laptops and cellphones have been shown to damage sperm counts. According to Fertility and Sterility Journal, the wireless connection on the laptops may is linked to DNA damage in sperms. A group of researchers from Exeter, United Kingdom, had recently gathered ten past studies (meta-analysis) that demonstrated a small, but consistently declined in sperm quality when they have been exposed to mobile phone radiation in their pocket. Matthews analyzed 1,492 samples in both experimental lab and observational human studies. The conclusion revealed the exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones was associated with an average of 8.1% decrease in sperm motility and 9.1% deformity of the ejaculates. The declines in the concentrations were less conclusive, as some researchers did not identify a decline in the number of sperms.

Although the study did highlight an association between the emission of radiofrequency and changes in sperm quality, in reality, such fluctuation is quite common even without exposure to electronic devices. Besides, the link is purely an association and the analysis did not necessarily show any cause or effect. The more important studies of the long-term impact of mobile phones over many years should really be observed.

Many men may have suboptimal levels of sperm quality to begin with, however at a younger age, the less optimal quality sperms make little impact on the overall fertility. Altering the placement of the mobile device is a simple manoeuvre that perhaps can protect his crown jewels from the “slow radiation frying” of mobile phones. The reality is the obesity, smoking, alcohol, and stress have more impact in killing the sperms fast than modern gadgets. The Irish playwright famed for his melodramas, Dion Boucicault once said: “Men talk of killing time, while time is quietly killing them”.

When men with subfertility are putting Dr. G on the spot to differentiate myths and facts that are killing their balls softly, his view is an immediate change to a healthy lifestyle with cooling of the scrotum are most important ways to stop the balls being killed softly, as there is really “no time to die” when it comes to the race for fertility!

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Dr G ,

Dr George Lee

Dr George Lee

Dr George Lee is a consultant Urologist and Clinical Associate Professor whose professional interest is in men’s health. The column “Ask Dr G” is a forum to help men debunk the myths and taboos on men’s issues that may be too “hard” to mention. You can send him questions at askdrg@thestar.com.my

   

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