Forgive me for dreaming, but it’s the New Year and a great time to think about what the future holds, if only for a moment. Maybe you have a vision for what you’d like to see happen, whether political, financial, personal or global. Here is a deeply felt professional vision that constantly inspires me. [Read more...]
Name a disease that’s about half as common as diabetes, affects both sexes and is running rampant in developed countries? Obesity? Good try. How about infertility? Ah, but is infertility really a “disease” you ask? You thought it was something that happens to a minority of otherwise healthy people, right? Well guess again. What is Disease? Hate to get too […]
Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have been trying to have a baby for the past year. Both of us have been thoroughly checked out and neither of us has any physical conditions that could be causing problems. The doctor says it’s “unexplained infertility,” which isn’t helpful at all. My wife usually works late afternoons or night shifts (she’s a nurse) and is always tired. Could that be contributing to our difficulty conceiving?
A: “Unexplained infertility” has to be one of the most frustrating things a couple can hear. All it means is that even after spending thousands on diagnoses and fertility treatments, you’re not any closer to having a baby than you were before. But in your case, your wife’s work schedule may provide a clue.
In part 1 of this 2-part series, we talked about how infertility increases men’s risk of developing heart problems and cancer. If fatherhood is in the cards for you (or you’d like it to be), there are a few things you can do to increase your chances.
- Cean up your life. Smoking, obesity, and a high-fat diet all contribute to infertility. In one study, men who got at least 37% of their daily calories from fat, had a 43% lower sperm count and 38% lower sperm concentration than the men with the lowest fat intake. Saturated fats are especially big contributors to infertility. In that same study, men who got at least of their daily calories from saturated fats had a 35% lower total sperm count and a 38% lower sperm concentration than the men consuming the lowest levels. There’s one kind of fat, though, that may be able to counteract these effects: omega-3 fatty acids. Higher levels are associated with a decrease in sperm abnormalities, which is a common cause of infertility.
- Think about the next generation. You may not even be a dad yet, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about becoming a grand-dad. New research has found that women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have sons with low sperm counts. Actually, maternal smoking was one of three pregnancy-related factors that decreased sons’ sperm count at age 20. However, the other two—slow fetal growth and slow growth in childhood—are often caused by smoking during pregnancy. So, if you want to have grandkids, make sure their mother doesn’t reach for the pack of smokes. What she does today could lead to your future son’s infertility.
- Stop doing the valsalva maneuver. What’s that? It’s the thing you do when you try to clear your ears when you’re in a fast-moving elevator, scuba diving, descending in an airplane, or just have a cold (a lot of people do it by pinching their nostrils shut and then trying to exhale air through the nose). Increasing the pressure like that can cause varicoceles, enlarged veins in the scrotum which are the most common cause of male infertility. The pressure from clearing your ears causes blood to pool in the testicles. That, in turn, increases the temperature in the scrotum, which effectively parboils—and kills—sperm (and that’s pretty much the definition of infertility). This may sound a little crazy, but Iranian researcher, Bijan Rezakhaniha found that wind musicians—who are effectively doing the valsalva maneuver for hours at a time, are twice as likely as non-wind musicians to have varicoceles. The good news is that in most cases, varicoceles are treatable. If you’re a musician and want to be a dad, this might be the time to give up the trumpet or oboe and pick up the violin or drums.
If you’re interested in learning more strange and unusual facts about sperm, fertility, and infertility, you may want to check out the series I did for the Talking About Men’s Health blog. Click here for links to part 1, part 2, and part 3.
Infertility isn’t something that most guys think a lot about–especially since hundreds of studies have shown that on average, being a dad is good for men. It often makes us more mature, more tolerant of others, gives us a chance to be a kid again, makes us cut back on irresponsible behavior that might land us in jail, often gets us to pay a little more attention to our health, and for some men, it gives life meaning. But what about not being a dad—whether by choice or because of a medical issue? Turns out that infertility has some extremely negative side effects for men.
It was a welcome call from the Midwest: “Dr. Turek, thank you very much! We took your advice and it worked! My wife is pregnant.” Nice thing to hear from someone that I had never actually met. They had simply asked for my opinion. The first of many telemedicine pregnancies at The Turek Clinic. The Second Opinion For over 4 [...]