Are You Putting Your Fertility at Risk?
Trying to get your partner pregnant and it isn’t working? There is a 40 percent chance you either have low sperm count or your sperm are poor fallopian canal swimmers.
Once you have ruled out the chance it might your partner’s problem — due to age, or ovulation or anatomical problems — what do you do?
Herbs, pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, tobacco, drugs and alcohol can affect sperm count and the degree of erections, said Dr. Donna Sessions, an OB-GYN at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
“It takes about 70 days for sperm to mature, so anything that happens in the last 70 days affects sperm count,” Sessions said.
Sperm count can also temporarily drop due to a virus, high fever or the effects of anesthesia from surgery, Sessions said. Low sperm count also is found in some men who are taking calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure, she said.
Other factors that can damage sperm include industrial chemicals and common cleaners found in the home. Such toxins as boron, benzene, cadmium, carbon monoxide, carbon tetrachloride, ethylene oxide and lead can reduce sperm count, decrease sperm motility, create abnormal sperm, decrease libido and sometimes cause impotence, Sessions said.
Genetic defects also may play a role in low sperm count. “There is a lot more information now concerning mutations of the Y chromosome,” Sessions said. “Genetic testing is offered at some big university research programs. It is relatively new, but promising.”
Depending on the amount of sperm, men have various medical options to improve their fertilization chances, Sessions said.
“If sperm counts are low, artificial insemination is an option,” Sessions said. “If the sperm count is severely low, then in vitro fertilization is the only option. With in vitro, we need only one sperm for each egg. For men who don’t have any sperm, urologists can retrieve sperm and then do in vitro. Another way to obtain sperm is do electro-ejaculation.”
Some herbalists and naturopathic physicians believe vitamins and herbs can help increase fertility, but Sessions is doubtful because of the lack of studies.
“No drug or vitamin has been shown to improve male infertility. There are several infertility drugs for women, but they don’t seem to work that well on men,” Sessions said. Initial studies have shown promise for the use of antioxidants to improve sperm count and address infertility issues. “None have yet to be shown effective,” she said.
For erection problems, Dr. Lyle Lundblad, president of Midwest Institute of Urology in Minneapolis, sometimes recommends the herb yohimbe. Yohimbe can influence blood flow in the penis, but it also affects blood flow throughout the entire body. “There are side effects, like edginess or insomnia, that would negatively affect some people, so I tell them to be careful,” he said.
“Before Viagra, I used to recommend yohimbe all the time,” Lundblad said.
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