It takes two – the role of male fertility
19th July 2018
So, who is an avid fan of Handmaid’s tale? Definitely me! (Lina and Tyler, don’t watch it yet, I’m trying to show them the errors of their ways….)
Fellow fans will have noticed when ‘Commander Waterford and Mrs Waterford’ visited Canada in the last episode, an American official – in protest of the regime in Gilead – said “Gilead blames the fertility crisis on women, on their sinfulness, we see the problem more often originating with the men. Some of the best scientists in America have been working on fertility for years.”
**End of spoiler**
So what is the role of male fertility? Men don’t have an equivalent to the menopause right? So they don’t have this ticking biological clock? In this blog we explore what the most recent scientific research says.
While women do have a biological cut-off point for fertility – the menopause – it is true that no such point has been defined for men. This has meant, however, that the study of age and male fertility has lagged behind that of female fertility – this includes the public perception of the issue.
But science is starting to catch up. Recent research shows that age does have an impact on male fertility. One study found men over 40 years old were half as fertile as men under 25. Another study found it takes five times longer to conceive when the father is over 45. Studies also associate paternal age with increased risk of pregnancy complications and loss.
It’s fair to say our current healthcare system doesn’t reflect this. As pointed out by Dr Sarah Martins da Silva, female fertility is closely scrutinised for fertility treatments. But the influence of paternal age is often ignored.
Whatever the cause of fertility problems, it’s obviously crucial for no blame to be assigned – the dystopian version of that reality can be found in the Handmaid’s Tale. Instead we must have an open and honest conversation, empowering people to understand the facts and make more informed choices.