Evolution keeping pace…. NO!

I was having a conversation with my students this week as we discussed the fact that the maternal age of the first child has significantly increased in the last 30 years as social expectations change. Indeed the average age that women had their first child in the 1970s was 23 years old. In this decade the average age is 30 years old. Seven years may not seem a long time but in reproductive terms this is a huge difference. The fertility of a 30 year old women is significantly lower than that of a 23 year old. This is because a women is born with all of her eggs, so as she ages so do her eggs and the genetic material within them. This is why infertility and miscarriage rates increase as women age.

One of my students commented that perhaps we will/are evolving to take account of our changing requirements from our reproductively biology. It was my sad duty to inform her that we are certainly NOT. Evolution takes place over the course of hundreds of thousands of years and the last 100 years are a mere blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. We evolve so slowly due to our life span and the relatively low number of offspring we have. Indeed our bodies and biology have not evolved much past the era of cavemen. It may surprise you to know that if we were to go back in time and meet our cavemen ancestors they, would be indistinguishable from modern day man. Our biology is just not designed for pregnancy.

This is why it is important when you are trying to conceive in your 30’s not to leave it too long before you consider checking your fertility. Statistically 89% of couples with no underlying fertility problems will conceive in the first year of trying. Male fertility testing is a good place to start, as half of all fertility problems are due to low sperm counts and abnormal semen parameters.

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Don’t Use Anabolic Steroids

The use of anabolic steroids has become one of the main causes of preventable male factor infertility.  Increasing numbers of men, including teenagers, are now taking these steroids. They are sourced in the locker rooms, primarily gyms, to help build up muscle bulk in a bid to make themselves look more “manly”.

However, most are unaware of the side effects from these illegal drugs. They pose significant risks to their long term health, and more specifically their future fertility and sperm count.  A lot of men believe they can reverse these effects with more hormones such as HMG, but this is not the case. These steroids can cause the testicles to shrink, stopping sperm production. This means that men taking anabolic steroids, and other drugs like them, may have problems starting or adding to their family in the future.

The science behind this is well known: The anabolic steroids increase testosterone production within the body. This helps build up muscle bulk.  However, this also blocks the production of testosterone in the testicles themselves, which is a necessary ingredient for sperm production.

If used for long enough and in high enough doses, the damage to male fertility can become permanent.  In some case, it may take up to a year for sperm production to return to normal after having stopped taking the anabolic steroids.

We are seeing an increasing number of men at the clinic who simply aren’t aware of the damage that taking anabolic steroids can do to their long-term health and fertility. If you have taken steroids either recently or even years ago, we advise that you get a semen analysis done to understand if your fertility has been affected.

If you are trying to start a family, now or wish to in the future, it is imperative that you look after your health. This means not taking off prescription drugs or “herbal” remedies of any sort without first consulting an expert. Eat well, exercise regularly and look after yourself.

Claire Mooney

Consultant Embryoligist

Are all sperm tests equal?

Semen analysis has long been the accepted routine test for assessing male fertility. However, in the wrong hands sperm tests have serious limitations. A semen analysis can offer a wealth of information about your fertility with sperm numbers, how your sperm swim and sperm shape. The latter being all important when assessing your fertility and the likelihood of conception.

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Free sessions at the Natural Fertility Clinic

Fertility solutions is excited to announce that we will be offering free sessions with the Natural fertility clinic. They offer acupuncture, fertility and nutritional advice. The free sessions will be on a first come first served basis when booking a semen analysis at any of our 6 clinics. This includes our London, Slough, Maidenhead, Windsor and Tunbridge Wells male fertility testing clinics. 

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