We're heading for a male fertility crisis and we're not prepared


Martin Leon Barreto By Moya Sarner MY FATHER was 50 when I was conceived. My mother, at 39, was called an elderly primigravida, a term used to describe a woman who becomes pregnant for the first time at 35 or older. There is no name for the male equivalent, though my father was delighted to call himself an “elderly primigravidad”. Jokes aside, we are used to thinking of fertility and healthy pregnancy as predominantly the domain of women, who are warned all too frequently of the dangers of leaving it too late to start a family. This hasn’t been the case for men. But it might be time for a reality check. In recent months, a number of studies have been building a picture of a looming male fertility crisis. Sperm counts are dropping, and it turns out that for men – far from having all the time in the world to become dads – the clock is ticking too. In a society where couples are choosing to conceive later in life, we are heading towards a perfect storm. “If the decline in sperm counts is real, then the combination of this and our general desire to have our children later in life is a total disaster,” says Allan Pacey at the University of Sheffield, UK. The fact that women, but not men, are so regularly harangued about their fertility perhaps isn’t surprising when you consider that women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, which dwindle and age with time,
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