Increasing cases of poor sperm count observed
Infertility experts have been observing a rise in the number of men reporting subnormal sperm production. “We see a lot of male infertility. Twenty years ago, we said 20 per cent of the time we did not know the cause for infertility. But now with better diagnostic facilities that margin is decreasing. Stress, poor lifestyle and genetically modified food also could cause infertility,” says endocrinologist Priya Kannan.
Reasons for poor sperm production may be excessive use of cell phones and laptops and exposure to radiation and pesticides. Consumption of junk food and alcohol, and smoking also contribute to fall in sperm production, says andrologist P. Dharmaraj, attached to the Craft Fertility Centre.
According to Dr. Dharmaraj, around one per cent of the world’s total male population suffers from ‘azoospermia’ (absence of sperm in semen). This condition is classified into obstructive and non-obstructive azoospermia.
Obstructive azoospermia is a condition where the pathways are blocked and sperms cannot exit. Men with a non-obstructive condition are offered a procedure to retrieve sperm from the “good” tubules in the testicle. It is then introduced through an intracytoplasmic sperm injection into the ovum. The procedure is relatively rare and arduous, doctors say.
The Kerala-based Craft Fertility Centre offers this procedure now in Chennai. Its medical director C. Mohamed Ashraf says the procedure, training for which has been received from advanced centres abroad, is being offered in India for the past year. “We do not offer donor services and rely on the couple’s own ovum and sperm to avoid future conflicts,” he says.
Senior gynaecologists say the technique is known but does not guarantee pregnancy. In State-run government hospitals, the most reliable and commonly-used procedure of intrauterine insemination is only offered now.
However, new dedicated buildings have come up at both Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and the IOG, with the government considering a proposal to set up fertility centres. One reason for the slow take-off in the government sector is the recurring costs.