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Let’s Talk About Sperm

Leading fertility doctor Brian Levine on how men should start taking equal responsibility for pregnancy.

Words by Pete Samson

Most couples now agree that men and women should both take leading roles in parenting. But what about conceiving a child? As women are the ones who get pregnant and carry the baby, there’s a lot of attention on their reproductive health. Meanwhile, even many forward-thinking guys often see it as the woman’s area, and think they just need to show up on the night for their scene-stealing cameo.

We know it takes two to make a baby. But we may not realize the reproductive health of a man is just as important as a woman’s when a couple is trying to conceive. Doctors identify the cause of infertility for about 80% of couples struggling to fall pregnant, and in half of those cases it’s the man with the issue.

Dr Brian Levine, one of the leading fertility doctors in the US, says, “One in eight couples will deal with infertility, it’s an extremely common condition and it doesn’t matter if you’re in the Upper East Side of Manhattan or Sub-Saharan Africa.

“And if you take a look at couples who are dealing with infertility, 40% of the time is due to some sort of a female factor, so that could be the woman’s age, the function of her fallopian tubes, egg quality or things like that. While 40% of the time, it’s the guy – and we often forget that.”

Fertility is decreasing around the world. With sperm counts approximately halving over the last 40 years, some predictions have suggested the majority of couples will need IVF by 2045. Bad diet, in particular processed foods, and exposure to chemicals used in the making of plastic products are among the factors blamed for these falling numbers.

The female pre and post-natal health market is already big business, and among the leaders the space are Perelel, a vitamin brand known for offering health supplements to help women in each unique stage of motherhood, from preconception, through each individual trimester, to postpartum and beyond.

And now Dr Levine has joined forces with the brand to create the Men’s Multi Support Pack, their first product supporting the guy’s reproductive health, as he also works to raise awareness about the importance of approaching fertility as a true team effort.

 

Dr Brian Levine at his New York clinic // 📸 : Brian Levine / Facebook

Dr Brian Levine at his New York clinic // 📸 : Brian Levine / Facebook


He says, “Sex sells everything, whether it’s the voluptuous model or the guy with the six pack, yet reproduction is something we never talk about.

“We don’t talk about sperm, we don’t talk about male vitamins, we don’t talk about diet. We define male health as being able to take your shirt off and look good at the beach, but those guys can still have pretty crummy looking sperm.

“We know that sperm abnormalities are incredibly common. They can be sluggish and slow, low in count, or hideous and ugly. You only need 4% of your sperm to look good to be considered normal. So 96% of your semen analysis can have the most hideous sperm, and that’s still the definition of normal.”

Dr Levine, the founding partner and practice director of CCRM Fertility in New York, adds that men are actually in a better position than women to improve their reproductive health.

He says, “The difference between men and women is we don’t have time machines to take women back to a younger age and improve their fertility. But we do have vitamins and cocktails that we can offer men to help them improve their sperm, because a man will make new sperm every day from puberty until a couple of hours after death.”

Perelel’s men’s fertility pack includes L-5 Methylfolate, which is critical in DNA synthesis. This is coupled with vitamins C and E, and selenium; which aside from its antioxidant activity has been shown to have significant protection against DNA damage by increasing the activity of DNA repair enzymes. It also features the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA to improve the antioxidant activity in human seminal fluid (the liquid the sperm swim in). The supplementation of DHA has also been shown to increase testosterone levels, and thereby libido, in some men. There’s also a capsule of CoQ10, also known as Ubiquinone, which is a ubiquitous substance that is made by your body and stored in the mitochondria, which works like the battery packs of cells — so Dr Levine says this helps our swimmers by effectively charging them up.

Perelel co-founder Alex Taylor adds, “I think there has been a long-standing stigma that infertility is a woman’s burden, even though we know that it’s very shared. We want to take the burden off the woman, and to share that there is a paradigm shift with more couple’s truly approaching this as a united force.”

 

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Here Dr Levine shares five further tips for guys to improve their sperm count:

Maintain a healthy weight

Research has shown that an increasing body mass index (BMI) is linked with decreasing sperm count and sperm movement. In short, if your clothes are getting too tight, it’s likely that your sperm count is dropping.

Exercise regularly

Not only is exercise important for improved cardiovascular health and maintaining a healthy weight, but it can also boost your energy, testosterone and improve fertility.

Manage Stress

Multiple studies have demonstrated that the fight-or-flight hormone, cortisol, is the major cause of many of the devastating effects of being stressed out. Prolonged stress raises levels of cortisol, which has strong negative effects on testosterone. When cortisol goes up, testosterone levels tend to go down

Don’t Smoke

It doesn’t matter if it’s a cigarette, cigar, joint, or vape. Smoking of any time is associated with low sperm counts and suboptimal sperm performance.

Avoid Toxins

Nearly 25 years ago, the Centers for Disease Control, put out a recommendation on the dangerous effects of workplace hazards on male reproductive health. In short, a man’s exposure to substances in the workplace can affect his ability to have healthy children by impacting his sperm, and also his potential family’s health. Substances unintentionally brought home like lead or toxins could also affect a woman’s reproductive system or the health of an unborn child. In short, if you need a mask at work (outside of COVID), change your clothes at work.

Pete began his career on Fleet Street more than two decades ago, and has worked for some of the world’s biggest news, entertainment, and wellness companies as a writer, editor, and media executive. He co-founded Mr Feelgood to help demystify the world of personal development, and to encourage men to discuss and improve their mental health, by sharing the wisdom and lessons learned of inspiring leaders in their field.

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