Protect your sperm from injury

sperm babyoku

Young men who are not yet thinking of raising a family sometimes take things too far. They engage in some risky behaviours that not only jeopardise their health but the health of their sperm also.

This is not to say it’s only young men that unwittingly toy with their sperm’s health. Adult men do, too, by making unhealthy and unwise life choices that may make it difficult or, sometimes, impossible, to impregnate a woman.

Experts aver that sperm cells take about 75 days to grow to maturity, and that harming them can affect a man’s fertility. The World Health Organisation notes that half of infertile couples fail to reproduce because of problems with the man’s fertility.

Scientists say when it comes to conceiving a child, there are lots of things that can go wrong, and they include ineffective sperm, among others. Indeed, gynaecologists say, of the approximately one in 10 couples who are infertile, male factors alone contribute to an estimated 30 per cent.

Family physician, Dr. Toun Agbaje, says, generally, sperm health depends on three major factors — the quantity, quality and motility (movement).

She says a man is deemed fertile if the quantity of semen he discharges in a single ejaculation is more than 15 million sperm per milliliter.

In terms of quality, Agbaje notes that normal sperms have oval heads and long tails, and that the more sperm with normal shape and structure, the more the chances of being fertile.

As for motility, the doctor says sperm travels a lot in order to reach the desired destination. “To reach and penetrate an egg, a sperm must swim through a woman’s cervix, uterus and Fallopian tubes. This process is known as motility. So, a male is most likely to be fertile if more than 40 per cent of the sperm are moving,” Agbaje reveals.

But how can a man mess up his sperm’s health?

In no particular order, one of the problems has to do with the temperature that the male sex organ is exposed to. Have you noticed the dressing style among the youth? It has become the norm for young men to wear multiple underwears.

A teenage male, for instance, may not feel well dressed until he dons a brief, pulls up a pair of boxer shorts atop it, and then wears a pair of jeans or corduroy.

Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology, Oladapo Ashiru, warns that raising scrotal temperature may reduce sperm production. He explains that testicles hang outside of the body because optimal sperm production requires a temperature that is one to two degrees centigrade below the core temperature of 37°C.

Indeed, a study of 30 healthy men who were tested to determine whether heated car seats raise the temperature down there to damaging levels, reveals that after an hour in the hot seat, participants’ scrotal temperatures rose to an average of 37.3°C, with a maximum temperature in one man of 39.7°C.

The scientists, led by Andreas Jung, a researcher at the University of Giessen in Germany, conclude that the temperature level may be enough to damage the sperm production process.

Certain occupational risks also affect sperm health, we are told. Ashiru warns that

working in hot environments, such as a bakery or a foundry, or sitting for long periods has been linked to raised testicle temperature.

“This may affect sperm’s ability to mature, leading to poorer sperm quality and a temporary drop in sperm production. If you have a job that involves sitting for long periods, have regular rest breaks and get up and move around,” the professor of anatomy counsels.

Being computer-savvy is it, if you are upwardly mobile. However, placing the laptop on the laps while working has its downside for men.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook say, “There is a direct correlation between laptop use and increased scrotum temperature by up to 35˚C in certain positions.” They therefore counsel laptop users to let it sit on the table when being used.

Again, in these days of “exotic everything,” taking hot, sauna or spa baths is tantamount to frying your sperm, experts warn.

Studies have shown that applied heat — like the heat from hot tubs or direct contact with heating pads — can impair sperm production. This much was confirmed by chief of the division of male reproductive medicine and a professor of urology at Baylor College of Medicine, Larry Lipshultz.

Lipshultz says the overall number of sperm can be lower, and the motility and morphology impaired when exposed to heat.

“Sperms are happiest at 34.5°C, which is just below normal body temperature. They need this cooler environment to produce the best-quality sperm,” the scientists advise.

Despite strident warnings that HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases are better held at bay, many men still engage in risky sexual behaviours. Yet, experts say STDs can damage sperm production.

Men who love tight undies are also advised to take it easy on their organs, as experts warn that tight underwears can inhibit the ability of sperm to swim when the need arises.

Scientists say, “The more constricted a man’s pants are, the less hospitable an environment he creates for sperm production.”

Body weight also affects sperm health, experts say. Ashiru says while maintaining a healthy weight helps to keep the sperm in good condition, being overweight may lower sperm quality and quantity.

In addition, a 2009 study by the World Health Organisation notes that, compared to normal and overweight men, obese fertile men have reduced testicular function and significantly lower sperm counts.

And if you love the bottle, experts say heavy drinking can be harmful to sperm. A research concludes that men who drink heavily on a regular basis have lower sperm counts and testosterone levels.

Worse still, experts say, those who use ‘recreational’ drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, Indian hemp, etc., risk sperm damage; as these drugs can lower sperm quality and, in effect, reduce fertility.

As for young men who sit for hours watching TV, there’s the need to wise up.

In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health warn that healthy young men who were sedentary, as measured by hours of TV viewing, had lower sperm counts than those who were the most physically active.

Senior author of the study/assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH, Dr. Jorge Chavarro, says “men who watched more than 20 hours of TV weekly had a 44 per cent lower sperm count than those who watched almost no TV.”

And if you have troubles drifting to sleep, beware! Scientists at the University of Southern Denmark who examined 1,000 men in their late teens and early 20s found that those who frequently retired late, woke many times in the night or struggled to sleep in the first place, had a sperm count 25 per cent lower than those who had no trouble sleeping; while the problem also reduced the production of the sex hormone, testosterone.

According to the study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers also discovered that the subjects’ testicles were also significantly smaller than those of persons who are able to sleep unaided.


Culled from