“The major problem is that we don’t know the causes of male infertility, and current diagnoses and treatment (are) not causal-based,” said Sarah Kimmins, a Université de Montréal professor and member of the research group. “It’s a one size fits all.”
There are limited therapeutic options for infertile guys, she adds, and the diagnosis is “really outdated. It hasn’t altered in almost 50 years. So the treatment falls on the woman, whether it’s her fertility issue or his.”
According to the World Health Organization, one out of every six couples has infertility, with men accounting for half of all occurrences. According to research, behavioral and environmental factors play a significant effect in male fertility. According to Kimmins, these include increased exposure to hormone-disrupting substances known as endocrine disruptors, an increase in obesity, poor diet, stress, cannabis usage, alcohol consumption, and smoking and vaping.
The new study by a group of 25 scientists led by Moira O’Bryan, dean of the College of Science at the University of Melbourne, presents ten recommendations to improve the health of males and their children while also reducing the burden on women to bear the brunt of a couple’s fertility challenges.
Among them is a request for public campaigns to educate men about the behaviors and lifestyle habits they should adopt – or avoid – to increase their chances of having children.
“We’d like that boys and young men to receive this education in the school setting when they’re young,” said Kimmins. “That their fertility is something (to be) protected and (what) to avoid to lessen the risk of having infertility later in life.”
Family doctors can also play a role in discussing fertility-reducing concerns with their male patients. Too often, she believes, clinicians view in vitro fertilization as a simple answer to male infertility. They forget, however, that the burden of the surgery rests on women, even if the underlying fertility problem is not theirs.
“It’s unfair and inequitable that we don’t have something available to better treat the couple,” Kimmins said.
Prevention is especially important, she added, because it’s yet uncertain whether fertility loss caused by external influences is permanent or reversible. Men whose jobs put them in danger of infertility, such as those who work with chemicals, should be told about the option of freezing their sperm before it’s too late, according to Kimmins.
Those considering raising a family should aim to reduce factors that could damage their fertility, such as eating well, exercising, and sleeping properly. “It’s not just a case of saying, ‘I’ve got to improve… my fertility health in the month before (conception).’ It is that males must consider this a lifetime responsibility.”
Infertility Increases Early Mortality Risk Among Men
A rising collection of scientific research indicates that infertile men are more susceptible to disease and die at a younger age than fertile ones. Cancer and cardiovascular problems are also more common among infertile males.
Beyond fertility, quality sperm can preserve children’s and grandchildren’s health by lowering the danger of passing on lifestyle-influenced genetic alterations that can lead to a variety of health issues ranging from obesity to neurodevelopmental abnormalities. During medically assisted conception, an infertile male may even pass on his sterility to his offspring.
As a result, men “bear the burden of protecting their health, protecting their fertility, but also the health of future generations,” Kimmins went on to say.
- Frequency, morbidity and equity the case for increased research on male fertility
Kimmins, S., Anderson, R.A., Barratt, C.L.R. et al. Frequency, morbidity and equity the case for increased research on male fertility. Nat Rev Urol (2023). https:doi.org/10.1038/s41585-023-00820-4