Director of European Operations, Cryos International
As infertility rates get higher it might be time to look at how we are contributing to our biological clock ticking faster.
One in six couples now struggle with some form of infertility and more men and women are seeking information to help them. But with a myriad of statistics out there, it can be confusing to understand.
‘Prevention is better than treatment’ is a message that Saghar Kasiri, Director of European Operation at Cryos International, is trying to spread. She says, “Whether male or female we all have a biological clock and our lifestyle choices can make that clock tick faster. The sex education discussed at school, in society and media focuses more on preventing pregnancy, not preserving fertility. So, for some people, when they do want to have a baby, their lifestyle is often incompatible, and this takes time to reverse – if that’s at all possible.”
A lack of knowledge on the causes and risk factors is what Kasiri believes contributes to the rise of infertility. “The World Health Organization has classed infertility as a disease” she said.
Extreme lifestyle choices
Research shows more adolescents are smoking and drinking, and extremes in body weight are now more common than ever. Furthermore, the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) has been steadily increasing in youths aged 15-21. Kasiri says, “Consequences of such unhealthy lifestyles are greatly publicised in pregnancy, however, young people are less aware of how such a lifestyle affects the quality of their eggs and sperm, how it causes hormonal imbalance and leads to infertility.”
Almost 50% of infertility cases are male-related
The misconception that infertility is a female disease still needs to be addressed and it should not come as a shock that almost 50% of infertility cases diagnosed are male-related. Men’s fertility is dependent on the same social risk factors that affect women, such as smoking, drinking, drugs, STDs, extreme body weight and stress. Ageing also affects men’s fertility as the quality of sperm decreases with age.
Avoid overheating testes
Kasiri adds, “some men may think they lead a healthy lifestyle by spending many hours exercising – such as cycling and marathon running or going to hot saunas, however these activities can lead to increasing the temperature of their testes and result in reduced sperm production and quality. Testes stay outside of the body for a reason; sperm needs to stay around two degrees lower than core body temperature as too much heat can damage them. Even men who spend long hours driving or frequently work with their laptops on their laps are found to be at higher risk of having their sperm DNA damaged.”
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause infertility
Certainly, as attitudes change and young people look at preserving their fertility through sperm and egg banks, there is a swing towards acknowledging their biological clock. But for some, a misspent youth might have already done damage. Kasiri says, “The cause of infertility for some patients may be due to having contracted a sexually transmitted infection in their younger days and for whatever reason have let it go untreated or caught the same strain multiple times. Frequent bouts of chlamydia and gonorrhoea can leave the body susceptible to infertility without receiving any symptoms until it is too late.”
There is always a way
For some people fertility treatment is unavoidable. Those who have had cancer treatment, suffer from genetic or congenital diseases causing infertility or people who are at risk of passing a genetic disease to their offspring. For some, donor sperm is the only option if they want to become a genetic parent, e.g. single women and same sex couples.
“Today, Cryos is a widely recognised international sperm and egg bank and our mission is ultimately to make childless families’ dreams come true, whether that is by increasing fertility awareness in young women and men or by providing high quality donor sperm and eggs.” Kasiri concludes: “So, despite a rise in infertility rates, we will endeavour to provide a way for those who have the dream of becoming parents. This is the reason Cryos has the highest number of registered donor sperm pregnancies in the world and we make every effort to make the journey as satisfactory for our parents-to-be as possible.”