These days, just getting pregnant is a challenge. According to Meggan Zunckel from the Infertility Association of South Africa (2015), one in six couples in South Africa struggle with fertility.
Stats from Leon Swartz (2003) and IndexMundi (2017) prove that this is a growing trend, with the total number of children born per South African woman decreasing from 6/7 in the baby boomer era to 2.47 in 2000 and 2.29 in 2017. What can you do if you experience infertility? Here’s a summary of some of the most common fertility concerns in SA and the treatment options available.
Fertility in men
According to the Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa (2013), men have an equal chance of suffering from infertility as women do, the most common issues being low sperm count and poor sperm health. Dalene Barton-Schuster of Natural Fertility Info (2014) says that a sperm count of 20 million+ per millilitre is healthy. Poor sperm health, she explains, relates to sperm motility (movement/tail whip) and morphology (form / DNA). It can result from:
- Cancer and chemotherapy
- Damage to the reproductive organs
- Anti-sperm antibodies, where sperm is attacked by the immune system
- Poor lifestyle habits, like smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet, and stress
- Environmental factors like pollution
Blocked vas deferens
Tim Taylor at innerbody.com (2018) says the vas deferens is “a tiny muscular tube in the male reproductive system that carries sperm … to the ejaculatory duct”. Barton-Schuster (2014) elaborates that a blockage of this tube can result from a sexually transmitted disease (STD), or varicocele (varicose veins in the testes). The latter can be treated with surgery.
Treating male infertility
According to Hethir Rodriguez, founder and president of Natural Fertility Info (2014), male infertility treatments include:
- Improving the diet, including nutrients like zinc, selenium, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin C, L-carnitine, and antioxidants.
- Reducing exposure to hormones in meat and milk, as well as oestrogen-mimicking toxins in pesticides, plastics and soy products.
- Taking herbal supplements like American ginseng, ashwagandha root, horny goat weed, ginkgo biloba, goji berries, maca root, and saw palmetto berries.
Fertility is a growing international concern. While some of the best medicine boils down to diet and exercise, the more complex cases should always be discussed with a medical professional.