The Male MOT

The Male MOT – What every man needs to know about his fertility

Director at testhim.com
Originally published at Fertility Road Magazine, ISSUE 57.

For far too long fertility in a heterosexual couple has been thought of as a female issue. Society has led us this way and it’s not helping men or women.

The impact this has on couples can never be underestimated but the impact on men can be huge too. Depression, low mood, loss of libido are all common issues for men which can have a profound effect on them and their relationship. By now most couples are several years down the line, potentially thousands of pounds worse off and still don’t have any answers as to why they can’t conceive. Yet one of the most important factors has been grossly overlooked. That is, the actual quality of the sperm and what the man is doing about his fertility!

It seems crazy to go into something as invasive, expensive and emotionally charged as IVF without investigating both parties fully from the start, yet this is what happens time and time again. Education around fertility is crucial for both men and women. Many women have a reasonable grasp of their fertility and there is so much more about this in the media. For the men, however, there is very little.

The other huge challenge is the stigma associated with male fertility. It’s well known that men are reluctant to talk about health issues or to go and get tests done but we need to change this and normalise the conversation about male fertility. The message that doesn’t seem to be getting through is that male factor infertility is just as likely to be the issue for why a couple aren’t conceiving as it is a female issue. For those guys who do find out they have a problem it’s a massive shock. Many men are left high and dry not knowing what to do and where to turn for help.

What can men do to help themselves?

Be proactive – get educated

Not necessarily easy as there is such a mixture of information out there but it’s worth digging into some books, blogs, podcasts and websites to try and understand a bit more about your health and fertility.

Getting to know your body and how it works is so important especially when it comes to your fertility. Your health history, diet, lifestyle and even your job could be having an impact on your fertility so it’s worth putting some time into learning more. Starting with the free questionnaire at www.testhim.com will help highlight any significant risk factors and lifestyle factors that could be impacting your fertility and will also guide you on what next steps you should consider.

Lifestyle and diet

Lifestyle and diet are by far one of the easiest things a man can do that may have a direct impact on his fertility. Often ignored by a lot of men, maybe because they just get nagged by their other half, improving diet and lifestyle is a quick and easy step to potentially improving sperm health.

With sperm taking between 70 and 90 days to mature, a man needs to put himself on a 3 – 6 month regime of healthy eating to even begin to make a difference. For those men with a less than healthy diet to begin with you can almost guarantee that following some simple changes will make all the difference.

Easy steps to take include:

  • Reducing processed, salty and fatty foods
  • Stopping smoking
  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Limiting caffeine intake
  • Removing sugary drinks and snacks
  • Increasing your vegetable intake
  • Keeping well hydrated
  • Eating more lean meat and oily fish
  • Adding nuts and seeds as healthy snacks
  • Exercising regularly but avoiding too long on a bike

However, if things don’t improve then that could be a sign that there are other issues at play which could require further investigation.

Get tested early

Part of understanding your fertility is getting properly tested. A good starting place if you’ve done nothing else is either an at home semen analysis or visiting your GP for a standard semen analysis.

This is a good first indicator and will highlight any major issues. However, for most men this is often where the testing stops despite many other more comprehensive tests being available. Unfortunately, though, most advanced tests aren’t routinely available via the NHS and have to be sought privately.

Again, this comes down to education. Getting a more in depth understanding of your fertility “potential” involves looking a little deeper. Other tests to consider are:

  • Sperm oxidative stress test
  • DNA fragmentation test
  • Hormone profile
  • Physical examination
  • Testicular ultrasound

Find the right medical professional

Of course, once you have these tests done you need to know where to go if something isn’t right. The final part of the jigsaw that’s missing is a referral to an appropriate medical professional. Many couples end up in front of a Gynaecologist during their investigations. A Gynaecologist is a specialist in female reproductive health not a specialist in male reproductive health and much as they will be able to offer some support a man needs to see a Urologist / Andrologist.

As specialists in male reproductive health Urologists / Andrologists will be able to advise on further tests and examinations with clear guidance on what can be done to help if things aren’t quite as they should be.

Emotional and peer support

Men are far less likely to talk about their problems especially when it comes to something as personal as fertility. Fertility Network UK (www.fertilitynetworkuk.org), the UK’s leading fertility charity, are a great place to start. With lots of helpful information and support via their website you can be sure to find something of value. They also host the hugely successful “Himfertility” support group. An online monthly support group that men can join with or without their cameras on. It’s a great place that gives men the opportunity to talk with or listen to other men who are going through similar issues. Counselling is also an incredibly valuable tool to help men cope with infertility. Although not often something men would think about it’s well worth considering just in case it’s the thing that makes all the difference. The British Infertility Counselling Association – BICA (www.bica.net) is a great place to look for specialists who know how to support people going through fertility problems.

Testhim – a great place to start

There is a lot to consider beyond a basic semen analysis when it comes to male fertility. It’s time we helped men get a better understanding of their fertility and the choices they have. Men are being left in the dark with little education, information or clear treatment choices and this puts a lot of couples at a disadvantage when it comes to fertility treatment.

testhim are on a mission to create positive change in the world of male fertility by providing education and comprehensive tests so that men can better understand their fertility and treatment choices. Now is the time for couples and for men to start asking for extra help and clear guidance on their fertility and treatment options. We need to see policy change around male fertility care to ensure men are being properly investigated. If you’d like to find out more and to complete your free male fertility health questionnaire visit www.testhim.com

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Ian Stones
Ian Stones
Ian is founder and co-director of testhim a company aimed at changing the world of male fertility. With over 15 years' experience supporting couples going through fertility difficulties Ian knows how much of a battle infertility is for men and that they are often the neglected part of the equation. Knowing this, Ian is keen to do all he can to tackle male fertility head on. testhim’s mission is to provide guidance, education, comprehensive tests and ongoing support for men so that they can properly understand their fertility.