Nicky Recommends: Rhod Gilbert – Stand Up To Infertility

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Male Fertility. Not usually something we hear much about. Female fertility, yes – but what about men?

Thanks to Rhod Gilbert’s new BBC documentary, ‘Stand Up To Infertility’ (currently on BBC iplayer), he’s literally taking a stand to change that.

Sperm counts across the world have dropped by 60% in the last 40 years. When Rhod read this figure he thought “somebody needs to make a documentary about that!” And here we are – thank you Rhod!

So Why Is This So Important?

Because 40-50% of fertility issues are related to male fertility. And yet men are often sidelined or ignored in the whole baby making process. Once they’ve produced their sample and done their ‘bit’, that’s it right? Umm, no. But it’s a message that we are not getting out there – it’s imperative to place equal importance on male fertility. Put simply, we need to look after our men and that’s not happening in the way that it should. Men ARE as important as women along the fertility journey, it’s just not talked about.

Rhod approaches this with humour, honesty and bravery – he admits to finding it mortifying. It’s just not something that we are used to men talking about. And therein lies the problem. As Rhod says, the message he’s picked up over the years is that how much of a man he is is directly linked to how much sperm he produces and how lively they are! A prime example of societal pressures and an outdated attitude regarding masculinity. Thank goodness for this programme shining a light on it.

What The Experts Say

As Professor Sheena Lewis from Examen says when Rhod asks her why male fertility is still so marginalised (and I had a little ‘yes!’ moment when I heard this):

“From day one of the world, childbearing has been associated with women and we always thought that unless a man was impotent and couldn’t produce an ejaculate, we never thought there was a problem with his ejaculate. Men should not be emasculated, rejected or pushed to one side – they haven’t been properly looked after and because the problems men have can be bypassed, there hasn’t been any research done that’s worth talking about – to actually find out the cause of the fertility issue. Because if we knew the cause we could do something to fix it.”

And The Take Home Messages From This Programme?

That sperm is about quality not quantity; that 21st Century living is not good for sperm; that fertility focus seems to be on gynaceology rather than andrology (ask yourself if you’ve heard what a gynaecologist is, then ask yourself if you’ve heard what an andrologist is! Note: as important as a gynaecologist and specialists that I frequently refer to); that it’s vital that men talk and receive support, we all need to do our bit to break down the stigma; and most importantly that with the correct investigations, support, medication and lifestyle changes positive outcomes can happen.

Let’s not ‘keep mum’ and ignore dad. It’s so difficult for men too and male fertility is often thought to be less relevant. The experiences of men in this programme show that its not. So if you are going through this or know anybody who is, this is worth a watch!

Further information about Rhod’s ‘Time to Talk Tackle’ campaign can be found here.

If you’re suffering in silence or don’t know what to do or where to turn next, know that there is help and support and information available. And that you aren’t on your own.

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