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Digital Subscriptions > Healthy Food Guide > June 2018 > BABY STEPS for both of you

BABY STEPS for both of you

When you read about couples trying to get pregnant, the focus usually falls on the woman. But with new research showing a drastic decline in men’s sperm count, Rosie Ifould looks at what both sexes can do to boost their chances of conceiving


UNTIL RECENTLY, most discussions about getting pregnant have concentrated on the woman’s health. But what if that emphasis has been misplaced? Recent landmark research may change the way we tackle fertility problems. Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reviewed 185 studies and discovered that sperm counts in men in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand have declined by almost 60% in less than 40 years. However, the same drop is not seen in Africa, Asia and South America.

Recognise that it takes two

Scientists are calling this ‘a crisis’ and ‘a worrying trend’ that shows no sign of slowing. In the UK alone, it’s estimated that around one in seven couples (or about 3.5 million people) are affected by infertility.

While this makes shocking reading, it may also lead to a positive new approach. ‘For years, men have felt excluded from discussions about infertility,’ says Aileen Feeney of the charity Fertility Network UK. In conjunction with Leeds Beckett University, it ran a survey on men’s experiences of infertility and found that 93% of men said their wellbeing and self-esteem had been negatively affected by problems conceiving. ‘Men feel very left out of the process. Even when men have been identified as having a biological issue, health professionals often direct all their advice and feedback to the woman. There’s still a lot of stigma that we need to break down,’ says Aileen.

When either partner has a fertility issue, it can cause a huge strain – not just on the relationship, but also on the individual’s sense of wellbeing and interactions with friends and family.

Fortunately, lifestyle changes really can help.

It all adds up

The first step is to get a plan in place. ‘We encourage both partners to take a holistic approach,’ says Dr Geetha Venkat of the Harley Street Fertility Clinic. ‘Approach it as a project, and use it as an incentive to adopt healthier habits.’ Small steps, such as ditching the takeaways in favour of a healthy home-cooked meal, or 15 minutes of yoga every day (see p29), can all add up. It’s about getting to know your body in a different way, and it can take some adjustment. Lots of women find that an ovulation tracker can be a very helpful guide to understanding more about their fertile period, and some of the bestsellers, such as Glow, encourage people to join their online forums, so you can chat to other people who are trying to conceive.

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About Healthy Food Guide

Shape up before your holiday without crash diets – we've got easy swaps that will shave 500 calories a day to get rid of that belly fat - plus delicious low-cal recipes. We also help you stay safe in the sun, offer updated expert advice on migraines and boosting fertility (for men as well as women). Plus lots of nutrition guidance, including which milks and berries to choose for best health benefits.