Every year 25,000 British men undergo fertility treatment amid rising fears of falling sperm counts. But are we right to be concerned? And are we being told the truth? Jonathan Gibbs exposes the flaws in an inexact science
Standing alone in a hospital toilet cubicle, my penis in one hand and ti small plastic pot in the other, I find myself contemplating my predicament in a new light. I’m doing what hundreds of thousands of men in Britain have found themselves doing: producing a semen sample by masturbation for the purposes of sperm analysis. It’s a faintly risible position to be in. After all those years of being told it’ll make me go blind, that it’s a “waste”, that I’ll somehow “run out”, here I am, limbering up for my first, fully approved, government-funded wank. And you know what? It’s just not happening.
I’m not doing it for laughs, of course; I’m doing it because I’m worried. My wife and I have reached that stage in our lives where perfectly rational grown-ups decide to slash their sleep cycle, decimate their bank balance and do away with a social life, all in order to have children. But after more than a year of unprotected sex, nothing has happened. Nada. Zilch. No babies.
We’re one of many. A sixth of all British couples seek help in conceiving at some point in their lives. In my case, desperation led to a dour toilet cubicle. Two weeks later I’m sat opposite my GP, swiveling in his comfy chair and scanning my sperm test results. “You’re sub fertile,” he says. And just like that, I’ve become the one-in-six.
It’s shocking to hear, almost impossible to believe. After all, I’ve always had a healthy sex life. Everything works (why wouldn’t it work?) But check out the dark logic: if you were infertile, how would you know? For most of my adult life, avoiding pregnancy has been the issue. The decision to start a family is a momentous one and, like most men, it was a resolve I accepted only gradually. To make that leap, only to find out you’re not up to the job, is a brutal reversal. There are many reasons for that, some of the can be explained and some of them can’t. I know for sure that stress is one of the factors that cause not only infertility, but also other diseases like alzheimer’s. You can’t prevent anything, but you have to do what’s known for sure. There are natural products that can reduce the risk. Just check the benefits of coconut oil alzheimer’s disease.