11 October 2018

Nigeria: Why More Men Could Become Infertile

Experts have raised fresh alarm that more men could become infertile due to huge drop in sperm quality caused by rising pollution, junk food, obesity, smoking, exposure to plastics and lack of exercise.

The experts said this has led to rate of men seeking treatment soaring by 700 per cent in just 15 years. The experts, however, proffered solutions on how to improve fertility naturally and achieve over 95 per cent success rate in Assisted Fertility Techniques (ART) such as In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).

Unfortunately, for most infertile Nigerian couples, ART/IVF treatment is the only solution out of their childlessness.

According to a new study, men's sperm quality is falling every year, with experts fearing that modern life is destroying male fertility.

Also, a new study has revealed that men with smaller penises tend to be less fertile.

Until now, sedentary lifestyles are believed to lower sperm production, while cheap and saturated fats found in junk food are known to harm sperm counts.

The chemical bisphenol A (BPA), widely used in plastic wrappers and containers, has been found to be toxic to sperm.

Fertility clinics found that the number of moving sperm - or 'swimmers' - in men's samples has dropped by 1.8 per cent each year.

Also, another new research found the rate of men being treated for infertility has increased 700 percent in the last 15 years - and their semen quality is plummeting.

Researchers in the United States (U.S.) and Spain analysed semen samples from two major fertility centres between 2002 and 2017.

They found the number of men seeking treatment went up seven-fold, from 8,000 to 60,000 in that time.

What is more, among those men with fertility issues, the quality of semen plummeted: an increasing number have a sperm count so low they would require IVF to conceive, while the number of men with a 'normal' sperm count dropped.

According to statistics, there are about 12 million infertile persons in Nigeria, which is almost 10 per cent of the total population and available evidence shows that a significant proportion of infertility can only be 'amenable' through the ART intervention.

Further statistics estimates that over eight million babies have been born through IVF worldwide - more than half a million of the babies are born yearly.

In Lagos state, over 74 healthy babies have been born from IVF, including singleton, twins, triplet and quadruplet in the past six years, with over 70 IVF clinics in Nigeria.

However, there are barriers to achieving positive results in the infertile couples' quest for children, as they tend to overlook factors that could trigger their inability to conceive and give birth.

According to the Joint Pioneer of IVF in Nigeria and Chief Medical Director, Medical Art Centre (MART Clinics), Maryland Lagos, Prof Oladapo Ashiru, the success rate for normal IVF has been between 35 and 45 per cent globally, which is contrary to the prediction of a 90-per cent success rate in 2025 if more research is conducted in this field.

Ashiru who delivered the sixth Felix Oladejo Dosekun Memorial Lecture at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos on the topic: "Man Know Thyself and Healing Power will be Granted: How Medical Science Knowledge Helps to Achieve the Fruit of the Womb" stressed that preliminary evidence from his early basic research in reproductive toxicology revealed that environmental toxins and diet play significant roles in reducing fertility and possible IVF success.

Ashiru said the environment constitutes greater dangers to human's health, as it contains toxins from various occupational industries like oil and gas, petrochemical, agriculture and different eating habits.

"In Nigeria some foods are bad and secondly is food incompatibility, 90 per cent of Africans are lactose intolerant, about 80 per cent of Africans are gluten intolerant, and these things, been sent to us from foreign countries because of overpopulation is not good in our health," he said.

Stressing on fruits and vegetable, he said: "They are not due to the advice of the medical profession, they are due to commercial advert because we cannot digest excess of them, but we say take small amount. People begin to take large amount because they think it is good for the body, whereas they contain arsenic.

According to him too much of fruit juice is toxic to the body noting, "it has been evaluated that a glass of orange and watermelon will be equivalent to nine to 10 cubes of sugar. Now how many people want to put two to three cubes of sugar in their tea, but we take those things thinking that we are living healthy, we come out with acute arthritis."

Ashiru said the American College of Obstetrics and all the fertility organisations have made a law, which recommends that people who want to have babies should stop eating large fish and stockfish because of the mercury present in them, which is embryo toxic.

The IVF specialist, who disclosed more revelations said the diesel in the environment and petrochemical toxins in Nigeria have done a lot of damage to the reproductive organ of many people, noting that people in areas affected by these chemical toxins present with lots of reproductive problem.

He revealed that most women who drive barefooted in their cars expose themselves to antimony found in the rubber covering of those pedals made of metals, which is also toxic to the embryos, adding that the women find it difficult to get pregnant.

Ashiru also said the committee on Reproductive Health found out that the toxin that a pregnant woman is exposed to in pesticide will affect not just the woman but also the pregnancy and the baby.

Proffering solution, he said, "We are now able to get rid of reproductive toxins involving infertility, while future knowledge will enable success rate to grow to 95 per cent by 2025. The good news is that there are ways to remove all the toxins away from the body. It is recognised that we cannot do without detoxifying our system once a year to remove heavy metals, which is the complementary treatment."

He said future research is needed to improve the speed of diagnosis and make the IVF procedures and treatment less expensive, adding that an intense study on the understanding of the window of implantation is the only significant gap in knowledge for Nigeria to achieve close to 95 per cent success in IVF.

Ashiru, however, bemoaned the government saying the percentage of funds allocated to support research in the country is low.

"The future of Nigeria is in the hands of Nigerians, we need strategic development rather than development for politicking, party primaries and electioneering. We are now engaged in social media for politicking, we need strategic development for our country at the various levels. We need to understand the principles of global organisation and it is these principles that have entrenched into our political system to cause misgovernment," he lamented.

Meanwhile, another study found that male fertility is declining in five out of six US cities.

Its authors say the findings could be a 'public health warning' and that junk food, lack of exercise and pollution may be fuelling the crisis.

Only last year experts warned that the human species could face extinction, after it emerged that the average sperm count in Western countries had more than halved in a generation.

The new findings were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Denver, Colorado, US.

Meanwhile, researchers led by the Sidney Kimmel Medical College in Philadelphia and fertility clinic IVIRMA monitored almost 120,000 men seeking treatment for fertility problems in Spain and the US from 2002 to 2017.

The men were put into three groups based on the millions of swimming sperm in their semen samples.

Measuring 'swimmers' is seen as a better way of judging fertility than sperm count alone.

Among American men in the most fertile group, who had more than 15million moving sperm, this went down by 1.8 per cent for each year of the study.

Between 2002 and 2005, 84.7 per cent of men were in the most fertile group, but this fell to 79.1 per cent between 2014 and 2017.

At the same time, the proportion of the least fertile men rose. Those with poor fertility, from five million swimming sperm to none, increased from less than 9 per cent of the total to 11.6 per cent.

A co-author of the study, Dr. James Hotaling, said: "We did not expect to see the same fall in sperm quality in Spain and the US. If this trend continues, there is potential for more men to become infertile."

The second study, led by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, involved more than 2,500 sperm donors.

It found that fertility declined over 11 years in Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Boston, Houston and Indianapolis. New York was the only one of the six cities studied to buck the trend.

Also, a new study has revealed that men with smaller penises tend to be less fertile.

Those with fertility problems tend to have penises around a third of an inch shorter when erect, on average, than men without any issues.

The study researched 815 men going to a sexual health clinic over a span of three years.

According to the data collected, men who were infertile had an average length of 4.92in compared to fertile men with 5.27in.

Study leader Dr. Austen Slade of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, US, said: "It may not be a striking difference but there was a clear statistical significance. It remains to be determined if there are different penile length cut-offs that would predict more severe infertility."

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