Popular myths on infertility busted

Men tend to be touchy about the subject of fertility, as it often raises questions about their virility. Virility and fertility are independent of each other, so you don’t necessarily stand to lose your reputation as a stud. If you don’t trust your little swimmers to reach the finishing line, don’t raise the alarm yet. Infertility is a complex issue, one that has given rise to many myths. Most men fall prey to the quantity vs quality conundrum. Quality wins, it’s not the sperm count that is the true indicator of your talent as the begetter. In Vitro Fertilisation specialist Dr Aniruddha Malpani sets the record straight where fact and fiction collide to create a source of friction:

I ejaculate, so I am fertile

There is a difference between ‘semen’ and ‘sperm’. The semen consists of the seminal vesicle fluid, produced by the seminal vesicles tubular glands placed below the bladder, the in vitro fertilisation specialist fluid produced by the prostate and the sperms produced by the testicles. The seminal vesicle fluid helps in motility, while the function of the prostatic fluid is not fully understood in sperm motility.

So unless your ejaculate is tested in a lab, it’s difficult to say how how healthy the sperms are. A normal count is considered to be 20 million sperms per millilitre. So even if you ejaculate normally, but have genetic, hormonal or lifestyle issues, you may have low or no sperm count and bad sperm health.

I am physically fit, so I have healthy sperms

You may have a healthy heart rate, your cholesterol and blood pressure is under control, but it is not necessarily an indicator of healthy sperms too. You may have hurt your testicles while exercising without a scrotum supporter, or you may be skipping antioxidants, which prevent your sperms from falling victim to excessive oxidation. Strawberries, cranberries and blackberries are rich sources of anti-oxidants. Or if you are a vegan and in perfect health, you may be missing a crucial chemical element called selenium which helps healthy sperm production. Some selenium rich foods include eggs, meat, chicken and fish.

I can’t have a baby if I have low sperm count myths on infertility

Low sperm count is not bad news. “Most guys suffer from self-esteem issues for this reason,” says Malpani. “But they need to understand that they may still conceive normally.” Low sperm count could be an indication of other treatable problems. For example, you may be leading an unhealthy lifestyle and require changes like quitting smoking and alcohol, exercising and eating right. In many cases, the sperm count has returned to normal after certain lifestyle changes. With the right advice from a fertility expert or a specialist, you will be able to conceive.

Sperm count is the same every time it is examined

If you have been diagnosed with a sperm count of 10 million per ml, it may not necessarily mean that you have low sperm count. The count varies over a period of days. Variation in the temperature, for instance, can affect a man’s sperm count. So if you take a test after days of taking very hot showers, your sperm count is likely to be low because heat is bad for sperm health. If you stop the hot baths and have another test after a break, your sperm count may come back to normal.

Bicycling, wearing tight pants causes infertility

Riding a bicycle for hours raises the temperature in your scrotum and so does wearing tight pants and underwear. Operating laptops placed on your groin might also have the same effect. But all these things do not make you infertile and only lower the sperm count because of the heat. Take off your underwear before going to sleep to allow your scrotum to cool down and help the production of healthy sperms.

Masturbation causes low/no sperm count

It takes six weeks for your testicles to produce new sperms. Neither masturbation nor sex affects the sperm count. Your body is designed to produce sperms throughout your life. In fact, masturbating or having sexual intercourse several times a week will maximise your chances of getting your partner pregnant, because you are allowing your body to produce fresh sperms at a good rate.

The longer I abstain, better the quality of my sperms

By abstaining from masturbation or sex for a week or two, the quality of sperm may not be optimal. More and more sperms are being produced and packed in your scrotum every day. Storage in a packed space for a long time may result in DNA damage. On the other hand, abstinence for one or two days can produce the best quality sperm. So, frequent sex is good.