May 8, 2012 10:58 PM by KATC

How to Make a Baby: Men's Reproductive Health Part II

WORLDWIDE, studies continue to indicate sperm counts around the globe are falling.

Many theories abound as to why. Scientists have yet to reach consensus on the causes. The federal government, in most cases, has yet to issue any preventative guidelines.

But the most recent suspect is the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA).

Right in your kitchen, you might be releasing the chemical every time you microwave food in hard-plastic containers.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta says eating food microwaved in plastic containers could play havoc with a man's ability to father children.

In studies, men with the highest levels of BPA in their urine had 23 percent lower sperm concentrations than men with the lowest exposure to the chemical.

Dr. Chris Fontenot, a Lafayette urologist, says when microwaving food, people should make sure the plastic container is microwave-safe.

"There are substances found in hard plastics --mostly clear plastics -that if you're going to microwave, do so in a container that's microwave safe. That means that it's Bisphenol-A-free.

Dr. Fontenot says if the container isn't marked "microwave-safe," don't use it.

Beyond chemical exposure which is suspected in reducing sperm count and sperm quality, where a man lives can also play a significant role in his reproductive health.

While getting away from the "rat race" of city life may be desirable for raising children, if you want to have children in the first place, the rural life-with its agricultural pesticides -- may be hazardous.

"Men in agriculture areas have lower sperm counts than men in urban areas, Fontenot says.

In the country, he says, "you've been exposed to more pesticides and we do know there are three defined metabolites of pesticides and herbicides that are toxic to sperm."

But regardless of where a man lives, Dr. Fontenot says three lifestyle choices top the list of baby-making hazards.

"We do know there are a lot of things in our daily life that are toxic to sperm and high on the list are smoking tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. Those are the three biggies."

America's current obesity problem, which the CDC calls "epidemic," may also be taking a toll on men's ability to father children.

"There is a substance found in some fats that's toxic to sperm," the doctor says. "And just being overweight, you'll have lower testosterone levels, higher estrogen levels, so a healthy weight is very important."

Dr. Fontenot says when a couple is ready to start a family, they should "be patient."

"You can be too aggressive," he says.

The doctor says having sex every day is probably too often.

"Every other day is better because the quality of the sperm ejaculate is going to be better the longer you wait," he adds.

In his medical practice, Fontenot says, "One mistake I see people make is that they want to have it every day or twice a day. That's probably too much because the sperm quality is not going to be as good."

Researchers are also beginning to investigate whether a connection exists between cell phones carried in men's pockets and infertility and sperm of lower quality.

While Fontenot says the verdict is still out on whether -- or how much -- cell phones might interfere with a man's baby-making ability, he does offer advice for couples.

"For those desperate to have a baby," he says, "it might be playing it safe not to carry the cell phone in your pocket, guys."

But of growing concern to the doctor these days is the growing use - and abuse - of narcotics.

These drugs definitely decrease testosterone levels, and that, in turn, makes a man less fertile.

Unfortunately, according to the doctor, "narcotic use is climbing."

-- Hoyt Harris


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