Male fertility crisis, everything you need to know
Negative pregnancy tests, fertility treatments: the struggle to conceive a child can be extremely stressful at times.
When an international team of scientists published alarming research showing that sperm counts had halved worldwide in the past 50 years and that the trend was accelerating, it naturally raised concern.
The fallout, they warned, could become a very big problem, with the potential to threaten humanity's survival.
Sperm count is important, but it's not everything. When a man goes for a fertility check and does a sperm analysis, three key parameters are looked at: sperm count, but also sperm motility and morphology.
But the number is simply easier to track consistently than the other two parameters.
An abnormally low sperm count, also called oligospermia, is when a man has fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen.
Reproductive experts also point out that sperm count is a useful indicator of overall health. Men with low sperm counts tend to live shorter lives and are more likely to have cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease than more fertile men.
Are chemicals to blame for declining sperm count?
While their study did not explore the causes of the decline in sperm count, the scientists point to the role of lifestyle and man-made chemicals that are ubiquitous in the modern world.
After all, most of the food we eat and everyday products we use are packaged in plastic—from our cosmetics and cleaning products to our microwave popcorn. Chemicals from these plastics leach into our food, our environment and our bodies.
Research shows that chemicals such as phthalates, which have long been used to make soft and flexible plastics, and bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in hard plastic bottles, can disrupt people's hormonal and reproductive systems. especially in the early stages of development.
It's hard to ignore the fact that the last 50 years - the period during which sperm numbers have halved - have seen huge changes in the way we live that have not been good for fertility.
Scientists, sedentary lifestyle, stress and alcohol and drug use are likely to play a role as well.