Dear Dr. G,
Ramadan has drawn to a close and everyone is excited about balik kampung, especially the young kids.
To be honest, I love Raya. However, for the last few years since I got married, I have dreaded the thought of going home.
My wife is 35 and I am 36 years old. We have been married for 5 years and have been trying for a baby.
It has been five years since we balik kampung and every year, the relatives compare us with my younger brother, who has two kids since he got married three years ago. Last year, I was rather frustrated; a relative even suggested I should consider marrying another one.
The truth is, we have been to the doctors, and the problem actually lies with me, instead of my wife!
The semen analysis has been carried out quite a few times and we discovered the quality is poor. The doctors asked me to keep a healthy lifestyle and the sperm counts should improve.
My wife and I are not keen and cannot afford IVF.
Hate to put Dr. G on the spot, but can you provide some natural tips on how to improve my sperm counts. Really hope you can help.
And of course, Selamat Hari Raya to you!
Contrary to common belief, male factor infertility is a prevalent condition affecting couples trying to conceive. Recent data revealed that infertility accounts for 40-50% of all difficulties with pregnancy. This can affect approximately 7% of all men. The main reason for male factor infertility is deficiency in semen and semen quality.
The sperm quality is quantifiable by the assessment of the sperm number, movement and structure. The average men can ejaculate between 120 and 350 million sperms per cubic centimetre. Men with low sperm counts, who ejaculate less than 15 millions sperms, may face difficulties in achieving pregnancy, as there are too few sperms to result in fertility. In addition, the motility of sperms to reach the egg is also important for the fertility. More than 40 percent of the ejaculated sperms must wriggle and swim actively, to sustain the long journey of travel through a woman's cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes. Lastly, the number structure of the sperms, with oval head and long tails are also crucial in propelling the sperms to the eggs and ensuring the creation of a healthy baby.
There have been various scientific proven studies that can help men to improve their sperm counts. These include maintaining optimal weight, eating a healthy diet; regular exercise, managing stress and preventing sexually transmitted infections. And of course, staying away from cigarette and alcohol.
It has been demonstrated that men with optimal body weight will have better sperm quality. Obesity and too much body fat may cause hormonal imbalance and result in low sperm numbers and abnormal morphology. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, including whole grains and legumes can also help to boost fertility. Avoidance of tobacco and alcohol, refined carbohydrates and artificial food additives has been proven to enhance the sperm quality.
According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, regular exercise of five times a week for at least 45 minutes per day, will improve the sperm quality significantly. In addition to exercise, managing stress can also enhance the hormones required to boast the sperm quality.
In addition to living a healthier lifestyle, the avoidance of exposure to certain toxins, such as xenoestrogen is also crucial in maintaining good fertile health. PCBs, DDT, dioxin that exists in food storage, plastic bottles, synthetic deodorants and pesticides may have such toxin that mimic the effect of estrogen, causing the impairment of the sperm production.
For men, the important supplement to improve the fertility may include Vitamin C and Zinc. Vitamin C is known to prevent sperms clumping together and high Zinc containing food can also improve the testosterone levels in men. The foods that may have help with such improvement are oysters, wheat germ, legumes, nuts; herring and lean beef. Other nutrients that may also be beneficial are essential fatty acid, chromium, selenium, copper, Vitamin B complex and B12.
Dr. G is often put on the spot to give tips for the improvement of sexual and reproductive health. It may be obvious that healthy lifestyle, with regular exercise and minimal stress is the solution to our problems. Sadly, many men continue to indulge in sedentary lifestyle, and wondering why the poor sperms are not healthy. When it comes to trying for a baby, Dr. G has a simple tip: "Live Well and Try Hard!". It doesn't take a genius like Albert Einstein to work out: "You never fail until you stop trying!".
On that note, I wish all Malaysians Selamat Hari Raya!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org