What you need to know about infertility

by Christos Themistokleous* 

As a precaution, all men should have their sperm checked at least once a year   

Infertility is a couple’s lack of the physical ability to conceive a child after trying for more than one year, despite having regular unprotected sex. In developed countries the levels of infertility are remarkably high with 1 in 7 couples having trouble conceiving.In most cases, infertility is mainly due to the male factor, that is, the sperm.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), for the sperm to be considered fertile, it must meet certain conditions, such as increased mobility, sufficient concentration, correct morphology, and reduced mortality. According to research, it seems that 15-20% of young people, between the ages of 18-25 years, suffer from infertility. In other words, the concentration of spermatozoa is below the threshold, which has been set by WHO at 15 million /ml.

One of the main reasons that affects spermatogenesis seems to be lifestyle.

Spermatogenesis is the process during which the male genital organs begin to produce sperm. This process starts from adolescence until the third age. Metabolic diseases, which are related to an individual’s lifestyle, such as type II Diabetes and obesity, are major factors affecting the process of spermatogenesis. Excess of adipose tissue leads to a decrease in the hormone testosterone, which is responsible for the formation of mature spermatozoa. According to available scientific data, sperm motility in overweight men is reduced compared to those with normal body fat. Furthermore, alcohol consumption, stress, and luck of physical activity deteriorate the sperm’s quality. Spermatogenesis begins in adolescence, but the Sertoli and Leyding cells, which are responsible for the production of spermatozoa, begin to form in fetal age. For this reason, a pregnant woman who carries a baby boy and suffers from Type II Diabetes or smokes or consumes alcohol, acts against towards the proper development of the fetus and consequently, towards the cells responsible for the subsequent production of spermatozoa.

All the aforementioned factors result in a DNA burden, and thus in its fragmentation (DNA fragmentation), and in the creation of oxidative stress (ROS). Research has shown that fragmented DNA reduces the sperm’s quality, and it is also responsible for many miscarriages.

Prevention is the best defense

The father of medicine Hippocrates had said: “prevention is better than cure” wanting to highlight the importance of prevention for any disease. It is important for men, at least once a year, to have a check-up about their sperm. Laboratory sperm analysis measures the quantity and quality of sperm and can identify potential issues that cause infertility in a man. After excluding the main causes (e.g., varicocele), analysis for DNA fragmentation as a possible cause of infertility should be considered.

Yiannoukas Medical Laboratories, member of the BIOIATRIKI Healthcare Group in Cyprus, offers the molecular analysis for the detection of fragmented DNA, and provides sperm analysis with the most modern methods, which in combination with the experience and expertise of the laboratory’s scientific personnel, guarantees the most reliable results. It is extremely important that we always inform and consult our personal doctor, who knows our medical history and has access to our health file.

*Biologist, MSc in Embryology