•Lifestyle, genetics contribute to declining sperm quality
By Sola Ogundipe
An increasing number of Nigerian men are failing to fulfil their biological role of fathering children in the bedroom as a result of declining sperm quality that is contributing to rising incidence of male factor infertility. More men are therefore requiring Assisted Reproductive Techniques, ART, such as IVF and other laboratory-focused approaches in order to be able to complete their families.
Safeguard Officer, Employment and Expenditure for Result (Edo SEEFOR) Mr. Joseph Emmanuel, addressing beneficiaries during orientation programme in Irrua, Esan Central Local Government Area
While the infertility conversation often revolves around women and infertility is seen as a female problem, the male partner’s role is just as important because research shows 40 per cent of infertility cases are attributed to the male partner.
However, because such issues are not often as apparent as they are for women, men tend to be unaware of them, and they inadvertently put the onus of “checking” on women.
Worse still, most fertility treatment approaches tend to be relaxed towards men, and not encouraging them to be fully engaged in taking positive action to seeking solution.
“When couples are challenged by infertility, men don’t usually come out but keep blaming the woman, noted the Medical Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, who said male infertility is rampant nowadays.
Urging Nigerian men to begin to see themselves as being responsible for 50 per cent of the causes of infertility, he said: “Our men need to begin to think they may be confronting male infertility and that they could be responsible for their inability to complete their families. We need to dispel the myth that it is only women that are responsible for infertility because there are many causes linked to male factor infertility. It is your fault when you don’t seek knowledge,” he asserted.
However, he said because male factor infertility is a worldwide problem, there are now so many advancements in male infertility treatment all of which are available at Nordica Lagos.
“At Nordica Lagos, we looked at our own figures after the first study carried out about five years ago and saw that when the sperm counts of men 10 years previously were compared to the sperm counts at that time, we saw a decline of about 3 per cent and we concluded that sperm count appears to be declining at 3 per cent per annum.
“But we also looked at the figures again and saw that 12 per cent of men that we saw in the last five years in Nordica had no sperm at all (azoospermia). The bottom line is that out of every two sperm samples we take, one has a problem and we thought it is something that men need to be further aware of so that they can quickly make the right decisions.
“We are seeing more male issues than what we saw in the past. The problem of deranged sperm count or bad sperm parameters and higher incidence of genetically deformed sperms is becoming worse, and therefore it is necessary to bring it to the front burner.”
Further, Ajayi observed that many men are engaged in risky jobs that impact negatively on their reproduction potential. “We are aware that there is an increase in the problem and even though we don’t know what could be directly responsible, we know some contributory factors part of which is genetic. We know that the environment contributes to the problem.
“So we said let us look at this problem. It coincided with Fathers’ Day, so we said let us alert the men because a lot of marriages are affected. Also, some of the habits that young men engage in these days contribute. There is too much consumption of drugs, anabolic steroids and all kinds of concoctions.
“We think it is our responsibility to alert men so that valuable time is not wasted unnecessarily looking for the cause of the infertility of affected couples.”
Ajayi advised that couples who may have been experiencing failed assisted reproductive conceptions or recurrent miscarriages, may need to be investigated for the problem of male-factor infertility.
Research shows that male factor infertility is the cause for 40 per cent of fertility issues couples face. Luckily, this form of infertility is easily overcome with the right diagnosis, lifestyle choices and treatment.
There’s so much going on biologically in the man’s body that is critical for successful conception. Any impediment to the sperm’s ability to fertilise an egg results in male factor infertility.
To impregnate a woman, a man must have strong “swimmers,” that is, he must produce sperms that are highly motile. In normal reproduction, one sperm must be healthy enough to go the distance to fertilise the egg.
A man can overcome male factor infertility with a variety of treatment options depending on whether the condition is categorised as mild, moderate, or severe.
The goal with any treatment is to get the sperm as close to the egg as possible. The severity of the case, the fertility status of the female partner, and comfort level of the couple together dictate the planned course of treatment.
For moderate and severe male infertility IVF is usually preferred because it has advantage of making available more eggs for fertilisation.
Nordica Lagos, pioneered a technique called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) in West Africa. In the technique, instead of positioning the sperm close to the eggs in the petri dish as in normal IVF, the embryologist actually selects a single sperm and injects it directly into the centre of an egg.
Each egg is then monitored for signs of fertilisation and embryo development.
ICSI is an extremely effective technique for overcoming male infertility because it doubles the chances of men with abnormally low sperm count and poor sperm motility. Several pregnancies have been successfully achieved through the pioneering initiative.