Check your tackle – call to get men tested early in a fertility journey

Society’s assumption that fit men have good sperm means that men can be devastated by an infertility diagnosis, says Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, CEO and Medical Director at Bourn Hall, who is calling for it to become routine for men to get checked early in an infertility investigation.

He is speaking ahead of International Men’s Health Week (10-16 June 2024). Its goal is to encourage men to become more aware of potential health problems and to inspire them to take proactive steps toward addressing these issues.

As part of the week, Dr Thanos Papathanasiou will be speaking to Essex GPs, at the Essex EQUIP Men’s Health Conference 2024.

“Good health and fitness do not guarantee male fertility, but lifestyle changes can significantly increase sperm quality and quantity,” Dr Papathanasiou will tell GPs.

Although a third of infertility is due entirely to male factors and another third from sub-fertility of both partners, it is still usually the female who is investigated first, which can delay treatment.

Improving sperm quality

Sperm are made by testosterone in the testicles continuously and can be damaged by heat, so keeping them cool, improving nutrition and gaining a healthy BMI to balance hormone levels can all improve sperm quality.

Even men with a zero sperm count may have immature sperm in the testicular tissue that can be used for IVF treatment.

Dr Papathanasiou is urging GPs to ensure that the male partner is part of the conversation and to encourage him to have a sperm test and examination at an early stage to boost the chances of successful conception.

For example, a varicocele, where the blood vessels around the testis are swollen, leading to overheating – causing the testis to look like a bag of worms – is a cause of up to 30 per cent of male infertility and can be treated easily with surgery to restore fertility.

Shock of zero sperm

“The shock of being told you have a low or zero sperm count should not be underestimated,” Dr Papathanasiou continues. “Many men go into denial and then feel guilt, and this can impact their mental wellbeing. If couples are unable to talk about the issue it can put enormous strain on relationships.”

Men’s Health Week – sources of information and support for men

The Bourn Hall fertility blog also has a Men Talk section with advice and patient stories.

Fertility Network UK’s male only online support group HIMfertility,

The Male Fertility Podcast  is hosted by Ciaran and Shaun, two former Bourn Hall patients who have walked the challenging path of fertility struggles themselves.

Find out more at

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