Smoking, tight clothing and even your toothpaste could affect your sperm count, says Dr Rajni Khajuria.
Photograph: Courtesy Michael Turchin/Instagram. Used for representational purpose only.
Infertility, both in men and women, has become a global problem.
As per World Health Organisation (WHO), at least one out of four couples has been found to be affected by infertility in developing countries.
Globally, 60 to 80 million couples are undergoing infertility problems.
It differs across the regions of the world and is estimated to affect 8 to 12 per cent of couples worldwide.
In India, the overall pervasiveness of primary infertility ranges between 3.9 per cent and 16.8 per cent.
In India, male infertility is largely overlooked and women are subjected to a lot of social stigma for being unable to bear children.
The need of the hour is, therefore, to give equal importance to male infertility and create awareness about the condition.
As defined by WHO, infertility is a disease in the reproductive system, which means failure to conceive even after 12 months or more of regular sexual intercourse.
It can also be described as failure of a couple to conceive after 12 months of regular intercourse without the use of contraception in women who are less than 35 years, and after 6 months of regular intercourse without the use of contraception in women who are more than 35 years.
One must visit a specialist without further delay, especially if the couple is over 35 as the biological clock starts ticking.
If you are not able to conceive naturally, you must go for counselling.
Rather than leaving it to fate, one should seek timely help which may prove beneficial for the couple as fertility declines with age.
Infertility can be due to blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, male factor infertility owing to poor sperm concentration or sperm motility, females suffering from ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure, uterine fibroids, genetic disorders.
Although it affects both men and women, male infertility has increased in India due to wrong habits and poor lifestyles.
Here are some habits that affect male fertility.
1. Excess alcohol can turn you infertile
According to certain research, if you are alcoholic and you are consuming excess alcohol, there are fair chances you can turn infertile.
Drinking alcohol lowers down testosterone levels, causes erectile dysfunction and decreases sperm production.
Liver disease caused by excessive drinking also may lead to fertility problems.
2. Smoking affects your sperm count
Smoking lowers your sperm count.
Male smokers can suffer decreased sperm quality with lower mobility and it boost numbers of abnormally shaped sperm.
Furthermore, if you are a chain smoker it might also decrease the sperm's ability to fertilise eggs.
Stress comes with many problems but recent studies and research claims that if you are stressing out too much then it is going to affect your sexual health.
As per a study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility men who had experienced two or more stressful life events over the course of a year had lower sperm quality compared to men who hadn’t experienced any kind of stressful life events.
Learning yoga and meditation can be a constructive way to escape this problem.
4. Tight clothing
We all want to look fashionable and in course of doing so we overlook our comfort.
But be careful, it’s not only matter of comfort now if your jeans or underwear are excessively tight; you might get into infertility trouble.
Wearing ultra tight jeans affects circulation of blood, especially in the groin area and the knees.
They have a strangulation effect on the veins and this can be very damaging for your ejaculation of semen.
5. Tooth paste and sunscreens
This may sound a little weird to you but recent research studies have declared toothpaste and sunscreens as dangerous for men fertility, owing to the harmful chemicals present in these products.
They also lead to an early release of compounds critical to fertilization and make sperm less sensitive to female sex hormones.
These changes could make it more difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. So stick to organic products as they tend have less harmful chemicals.
6. Hormonal imbalance
We all know that hormones plays a vital role in sexual health.
In men, fat cells manufacture the estrogen, so by any chance if it gets affected it will lead to severe complications for your sexual health.
Other non-sex hormones such as thyroxin can also affect your sex hormones.
When we suspect a hormonal imbalance, we recommend blood tests and/or salivary hormone tests which often reveal what may be happening.
7. Excess exercise
Excessive exercise could lower down your sperm count indirectly by lowering the amount of testosterone in your body.
As you might have guessed, stay off the steroids as they can cause testicular shrinkage, resulting in infertility.
8. Being obese
In men, obesity tends to lower down the semen parameters.
Overweight men are detected with decreased libido and erectile dysfunction.
9. Chronic diseases
Any chronic disease can led to infertility.
Diabetes, kidney related diseases, hypertension and cancer are few unending disorders which highly affect the sexual health of the person.
So if you are planning a baby and you have any chronic disease, it is advisable to consult the doctor.
In such cases an unplanned pregnancy can be life-threatening for both mother and child.
The author Dr Rajni Khajuria was former researcher at AIIMS, Delhi. Dr Khajuria is currently lab director at Igenomix, Delhi, a company that provides services in reproductive genetics.