What does a man need to know about their health? I asked as I opened my email alerting me to this month’s event. I work with a charity organization in Uganda that deals with all things infertility and pregnancy loss. I have to stay up to date on the new techniques and advancements in technology the rest of the world is using in this area.
So, this particular email didn’t pique my interest until I read that the smallest cell in the human body is a sperm and the largest cell in the human body is an egg (ova). Tell me more!
Did you know that over a male’s lifetime his testes will produce close to 12 trillion sperm, sounds like a lot right? Yeah, this pushed me to dig further because it didn’t make sense since 8-12% of couples in the world experience fertility challenges and fertility in men below the age of 30 has decreased by 15% so, if it’s not the quantity then it’s the quality.
When talking about male infertility factors there are three; sperm count, sperm morphology (the size and shape of sperm) and sperm motility (movement of sperm). The first one, we all seem to be well vast with though. Low sperm count is since been synonymous with male infertility.
There are two conditions: oligospermia and azoospermia, hold up, I will simplify them in a minute. Oligospermia is a condition in men where the sperm count becomes lesser than the normal count (less than 10 to 15 million sperm/ml).
Oligospermia suggests that your reproductive system is producing a lesser number of sperms. In this case, sperm fails to break the cover of the ova, which causes male infertility.
With the help of the processes like IVF (In Vitro Fertilization is harvesting of both a sperm and an egg in a test tube and hoping they like each other to form an embryo. This embryo is then artificially inserted directly into the uterus), and ICSI (Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection – this is the harvesting of a single sperm and injecting it artificially into the uterus so it can meet an egg and form an embryo). This is effective for men with slow swimmers and makes it possible to retrieve a single sperm and make it work for the cause of fertilization.
June is the month to celebrate men and health, which is why its important cover all aspects that affect their wellbeing and that includes infertility
Now, Azoospermia is like a DEAD END! It happens to about 1% of all men and 15% of infertile men. It clearly means that a man has no sperm in his semen. This makes it very difficult to retrieve a single unit out of them to support the process of IVF. How is this possible with all that production of sperm?
Well, this is where the rubber meets the road. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an average male produces 1.5ml of ejaculate, approximately the equivalent of 1/3 teaspoon.
Semen only contains 10% sperm, the rest are enzymes, vitamin c, calcium, protein, sodium, zinc, citric acid and fructose sugar. 10% y’all! Why didn’t they teach us these things in Biology class? I need a refund! Let me explain further, this is an equivalent of a third (1/3) of a teaspoon. That’s all that matters when it comes to cum (pan intended).
Does this mean that men need to be very alert about their health and environment? Yes, it does. Why? Because there are various physical, environmental and chemical factors that reduce that 10% life span tremendously like STDs, air pollution, anabolic steroids, overweight, Cancer medication, smoking and drinking, recreational drugs like marijuana, cocaine, viral and bacterial infections etc.
After reading that, you must be worried now since the list contains things every man indulges in or comes into contact with from time to time. Surely, there must exceptions to the rule? Not really, there are men who have devised clever ways to try and trick the body.
You find a guy who loves his kikalayi (tray) of pork from that famous joint in Nakulaabye, he asks the waitresses to load it up with vegetables to compensate for the 3 Kgs of pork he just ordered or the guy who convinces himself since I run or hit the gym from Monday to Friday, I can drink through the weekend and sweat it out during the week haha!
Chances are if we test these men, we shall find one or two abnormalities with their sperm. So, what is the way forward? Are they doomed? Not at all. I would advise a visit to the nearest fertility specialists/clinics in your area.
In Kampala, there are some good health centers one can visit to find out more about their fertility such as the famous one in Bukoto around Kabira Club, Paragon Hospital, Neogenesis or IH. For those ‘how can they see me’ type of people who don’t want their business out in the streets, there’s a product by the name of FertilMARQ on Amazon which allows men to test their sperm quality and quantity in the confines of their homes.
It’s an innovative and clever product which I am really hoping Ugandan health centers can pick up on soon as it helps reduce the stigma already surrounding this sensitive issue.
Of course, I haven’t forgotten about the other two factors of male fertility challenges; how else will I get you to read on. Look out for the next piece soon as we continue to dissect the male anatomy.
Interesting read: 8 Things About Sex in Your 40s You Didn’t Know