What Men Need To Know

Semen analysis with a urologist or fertility center is a critical step in the work-up for infertility. Semen needs to be collected at least 3 months following any stressful events or illnesses, as a fever can impair sperm production for up to 3 months. Drugs, even pharmaceutical ones, and environmental exposures can interfere with viable sperm production: alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, heroin, cocaine, antibiotics, antacids, antidepressants, gout and blood pressure medications, heavy metals. Anything that can increase the temperature of sperm should be avoided, such as tight pants, cell phones, laptops. Protein is essential for making sperm, so increasing protein in your diet may help, especially Brazil nuts, walnuts, and almonds which also are rich in selenium, zinc, and copper. Sleep is when you produce your hormones, so getting enough and high quality sleep is a must.


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Processed Meats May Affect Male Fertility

In a study done on 141 men involved in IVF treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, those who ate a lot of processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and canned meats, had less success compared to men who ate more unprocessed meats such as poultry. Those who ate the least amount of processed meat, had a 28% higher fertilization rate than those who at the most processed meat. There was no association found between success and total meat consumption. The study does not prove a direct link of processed meat to fertility, but outcome can be explained that those who ate chicken over processed meat may have an overall healthier diet and lifestyle than processed meat-eaters, leading to improved fertility outcomes. I also find this to be the case in practice- that couples overall who avoid all things processed (not just processed meat), such as processed dairy, convenience foods, protein powders, meal replacements, processed cereals, soy products, baked goods, have an easier time at getting pregnant.

The study was led by Dr. Wei Xia, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and published Aug 5, 2015, in Fertility & Sterility.

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The Emotional Self of Infertility

This article says it perfectly: “Any woman engaged in the process of infertility can tell you what supplements she is taking, what foods she is eating, the exercise she is and isn’t doing, the things she can lift and the things she can’t lift etc. . . etc. . . but can she tell you how she is looking after herself emotionally in this? Emotional self-care is acknowledged but rarely prioritized in one’s plan.” Here are a few tips:
1) Take a break to listen to your body. Trying for a baby can get all consuming- taking over your life. Try taking your life back before trying again.
2) Talking and acknowledging your feelings is critical for emotional self-care. Sometimes just saying out loud how you feel to someone who you are comfortable with and non-judgemental can somehow reduce the intensity of the feeling.
3) Make a connection. Infertility can become very isolating. Connecting with others either virtually or in person can help with this feeling. Online forums or support groups can provide support and an anonymous sense of community.
4) Relaxation Techniques. Take the opportunity to re-focus on the body or engage in an activity that rejuvenates is so important for our emotional wellbeing.

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Are there careers that are more linked to infertility?

Environmentally related problems could contribute to infertility. Some examples include welding, bakery, working in brick kilns, radiology, flying. In addition, stressful careers can affect hormones, which impact fertility. Or those who have to sit for long periods of time may lead to pelvic stagnation or decrease in pelvic circulation. In my practice, I see many hospital workers, teachers, and those who do shift work.

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The Real Costs of the Infertility Industry

The trend for IVF and other segments of the assisted reproduction industry continues to grow at a fast pace. Some analysts say the infertility industry will be worth US$14 billion in 2020. There are now more than 4,000 clinics world-wide, performing 1.5 million treatments annually. According to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, an estimated 350,000 such babies are born each year. A federal report released in 2014, estimates the average cost to be more than $12,000 for each cycle of IVF. Many couples need several cycles in order to produce a child, and some never do. According to the BBC, costs for surrogacy vary from $45,000 for a surrogate in Mexico to $100,000 for a surrogate in the US.

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PCOS Brain Pathway Discovered

New Zealand researchers have identified a new pathway within the brain’s network of neurons that could provide insights and possible treatment options for the cause of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), a leading cause of female infertility in the world. The neuroendocrine control of fertility depends on brain cells known as GnRH (gonadotrophin-releasing hormone) neurons. Dr. Rebecca Campbell from the University of Otago, Dunedin, says her team has revealed a completely unexpected brain pathway within the GnRH neuronal network that might be involved in the neuroendocrine abnormalities of PCOS. PCOS is associated with irregular periods, increased hair growth, acne, higher levels of testosterone, and polycystic ovaries. In addition, women with PCOS are at increased risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and uterine cancer.

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When To Seek Help

It is easy these days with a lot of self-help resources out there to think you have to do it alone, but here are some indications that you may want to see some help- whether it be your OB-GYN, a fertility specialist, or alternative practitioner:
– You don’t get a monthly period or have irregular cycles
– You have had any kind or surgery for ovaries, tubes, uterus, testicles
– You are a carrier for a genetic condition you don’t want to pass down
– You have had more than one miscarriage
– You experience any kind of sexual dysfunction
– You are on any kind of testosterone boosters, supplements, or shots
– You have ovarian cysts, fibroids, endometriosis
– You are on any major pharmaceutical medications

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Words of Wisdom from Couples Experiencing Infertility

1. Don’t give up hope.
2. You’re not alone.
3. Don’t be ashamed.
4. Focus on your marriage.
5. Be honest with each other.
6. Get a second opinion.
7. Shop around.
8. Allow yourself to grieve.
9. You can start over.
10. Don’t put your life, or your marriage, on hold.

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National Infertility Awareness Week

What Infertility Patients Wish Others Knew about Infertility:
1. “Infertility is a medical condition like diabetes, a disease like cancer.”

2. “Insurance companies usually don’t cover fertility treatments.”

3. “It takes a toll on you and all of your relationships.”

4. “Getting pregnant isn’t always as easy as you think.”

5. “It’s more common than you realize.”

6. “It’s an emotional roller coaster.”

7. “Infertility affects young couples too.”

8. “Support from family and friends means a lot.”

9. “PCOS is a silent fertility disease. It can affect skinny or fat women.”

10. “It’s ok to talk about it. We’re not looking for answers, just a shoulder to cry on.”

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10 Fertility Myths

1. Men who have had children should have no fertility issues. Male fertility decreases with age, especially after 40 years of age.
2. Women with a family history of family members having babies in their 40’s should have no problems getting pregnant. Family fertility history does not determine your fertility potential.
3. You don’t have to give up smoking until you become pregnant. Smoking as few as 5 cigarettes a day has been associated with lower rates of fertility.
4. Sex within 24 hours of ovulation is ideal. After ovulation has ended, becoming pregnant is slim. Instead, have sex before and during ovulation.
5. You don’t have to worry about your eggs until you are 40. A woman’s egg supply takes a rapid decline in the late 20’s, again in the 30s, and most notably after 35.
6. Losing weight will not make a difference. Losing as little as 5-10% of of body weight can boost fertility in both women and men.
7. Only women need to take supplements before pregnancy. Folic acid is now known to be an important supplement for male fertility.
8. STDs do not affect trying to have a baby. STDs can cause scarring and blockage of reproductive structures in women and men.
9. It doesn’t matter how much coffee you drink. One study found that women who consumed more than 1 cup of coffee a day were half as likely to become pregnant as women who drank less.
10. You can get pregnant faster having sex every single day. Having sex every day only slightly increases pregnancy when compared with having sex every other day.

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