Amid a rise in cases of male fertility worldwide and a notable lack of awareness about men’s reproductive health, a team of global experts has called for immediate action and offered some recommendations.
One in six couples of reproductive age has infertility issues and approximately half of them stem from male infertility. However, due to the lack of awareness and limited clinical tools for diagnosis, male infertility is often overlooked. This results in female-focused treatment, which is often invasive and risky.
A group of 26 international experts, headed by Moira O’Bryan, dean of science at the University of Melbourne, Australia, came up with 10 recommendations to address the issue. The team hopes they will help improve the health of men and their children and decrease the burden on their female partners. Their consensus report was published in the journal Nature Reviews Urology.
“The rapid decline in male fertility cannot be explained by genetics, and studies indicate that environmental factors are a driving force. These include increased exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals that exist in our daily lives and persist in the environment. Other factors include the rise in overweight and obese men, poor diet, stress, cannabis use, alcohol and smoking or vaping. Unfortunately, men are generally unaware of these factors,” Professor Sarah Kimmins from Université de Montréal, the first author of the report, said in a news release.
The diagnosis tools for male fertility have not improved in the last 50 years and are still limited to analyzing family history, physical examination, hormone profiles and semen analysis.
“The clinic is poorly equipped to properly diagnose and treat male reproduction. Current methods are based on outdated techniques,” said study co-author Géraldine Delbès, a researcher at Institut national de la recherche scientifique in Canada.
“As health professionals, going forward, we need more funding of research that will allow us to offer men sensitive and accurate tests of sperm health,” added Dr. Jacquetta Trasler, another co-author and senior scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Canada.
Here’s what the experts recommend:
- Governments and healthcare systems should acknowledge male infertility as a common, serious medical condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated. The patients have the right to get targeted treatments and meaningful diagnosis.
- Establish a global network of registries and biobanks that have links to national healthcare data systems. The registries should contain standardized clinical and lifestyle information, and tissue from fertile and infertile men, their partners and children.
- Standardize the collection of de-identified tissue and clinical/lifestyle data.
- Allocate funds for collaborative research to understand the factors that affect male fertility in diverse populations.
- Use of genomic sequencing for diagnosing male infertility.
- Make additional diagnostic tests to improve the accuracy of infertility testing.
- Estimate the effects of various endocrine-disrupting chemicals, found in products, workplace environments and the general surroundings on male fertility, and implement rules for using safe alternatives.
- Medically assisted reproduction strategies should be thoroughly tested before being taken into standard clinical practice.
- More public campaigns to promote discussion of male infertility.
- Training of healthcare workers to promote male reproductive health across the lifespan.