Did you know that the number of infertility cases in men (and women) have been gradually increasing with time? Every year (from 1970), sperm count has been declining in men at the rate of 1.4% with an overall decline of 52.4% in the last 40 years. Isn’t that alarming? If the same rate of decline continues for another 100 years, there will be very less healthy men who can really get a woman pregnant. What exactly is causing this decline is not clear to the researchers. Some say that it is due to the life style changes, environmental changes, change in food habits, usage of medicines/drugs for various diseases, increased consumption of alcohol, tobacco and related products etc.
A healthy man generally produces 15 million to 200 million sperms per millilitre of his ejaculate. A count of less than 15 million sperms is termed as ‘Oligospermia’ or ‘Oligozoopermia’. Out of all the sperms that are produced, there will be many sperms which will be deformed (teratozoospermia), unable to swim through and reach the egg (azoospermia). Only a small percentage of the healthy sperms will be able to reach the egg and cause fertilization. Along with the decrease in production of number of sperms, it is also observed that the production of unhealthy sperms has increased in men.
Consumption of drugs, tobacco and it’s related products including smoking, alcohol have detrimental effects on the production of healthy sperms in a man. These unhealthy habits directly take a toll on a man’s fertility by reducing the number of sperms produced also the quality of sperms produced. Many men become ‘subfertile’ due to smoking, consumption of alcohol and drugs.
What is Subfertility?
When a man takes more than a year to get a woman pregnant, it is said that he is subfertile.
Effect of Smoking and Tobacco consumption on a man’s sperms
Many research studies have confirmed the direct link between consumption of tobacco products and smoking to ‘Suboptimal Sperm Production’. (Suboptimal Sperm Production – the condition where the man loses the ability to produce decent number of sperms and healthy sperms). Out of 25 studies, 20 studies confirmed that men who smoked, produced less number of healthy sperms compared to non-smokers. The sperm concentration was 13% lower in smokers. The motility of the sperms also decreased in the case of smokers compared to the sperms in non-smoking men.
Usage of drugs and alcohol affects fertility in men
Performance enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids, recreational drugs such as marijuana, cocaine etc changes the hormonal balance that helps in production of sperms in men. However, the damage caused by performance enhancing drugs to a man’s fertility is reversible, typically with 6 – 12 months of therapy. Consumption or taking recreational drugs result in production of lower number of sperms resulting in Oligozoospermia or azoospermia.
Alcohol consumption has shown that many health parameters of sperms are affected. Alcohol also affects the production of normal levels of hormones in the body.
Drugs used to treat medical conditions can also affect fertility
Certain treatments can cause an irreversible effect on a man’s fertility. For example, Chemotherapy can make a man completely infertile. So, if you are a man who has to undergo Chemotherapy and if you are expecting to become a father in future, your doctor will suggest you to go for ‘Cryopreservation of sperms’ before chemotherapy is started. This is a trade off the person has to make when battling cancer for survival. Once the sperms are preserved, fertility specialists use IVF or ICSI technologies to make your own biological baby.
However, all medications don’t impact fertility in men. If you think you are having loss of libido, problem in having or sustaining an erection, you should let you doctor know and he/she may try another prescription for your existing condition.
How can you keep your sperms healthy and in plenty
- Quit smoking
- Avoid too much of alcohol consumption. Occasionally consuming alcohol wouldn’t make a severe impact but if you are habitual heavy drinker, you must consider therapy.
- Avoid anabolic steroids for any reason
- Say NO to drugs
- Maintain healthy body weight. If you are obese or overweight, take steps to get your weight under control.
- Workout regularly
- Spend time in sun light. Vitamin D is very important for sperm production, health and motility.