The TV series based on Margaret Atwood's book, The Handmaid's Tale describes a future in which the world has become infertile. A recent paper was released indicating a significant trend of reducing male sperm count globally. Figures from surveys indicate couples are having less children than they wanted and referrals  to fertility services indicate almost 15% of women and men worldwide have concerns about their fertility.

Sperm counts appear to have dropped overall approximately 50% over the past 30 years although the results vary fro region to region a little. It is generally thought to be due to environmental factors, particularly pesticides and plasticisers. Men's infertility has been linked to lower levels of antioxidants in their semen, with increasing damage to the DNA as a result.

An individual couple's ability to have a baby is influenced not only by sperm count and quality but also by individual health factors of the couple, woman's age, exposure to environmental chemicals,  their social environment and lifestyles.

Most couples/women are not in a position to have a child from a financial and educational/workplace  position until their 30's, and the biological safety net is reduced for the woman particularly. The average age of a couple attending Australian Fertility Clinics for their first visit is 37 years. IVF is seen as a way of rescuing fertility, but the success rate is 41.5% for women younger than 35 years and measures pregnancies not live births,   by 40 years the success rate is 22% and by 43 years it is 5%.

Lifestyle has an influence on reducing fertility for both men and women, factors known to reduce fertility are:


  • Under or overweight
  • Smoking and alcohol
  • Stress, ( couples are less likely to have sex when tired, working long hours away from home and preoccupied, women shift workers have been shown to have increased fertility problems and endometriosis).
  • The impact of environmental substances are not yet proven, but animal studies give strong evidence that plastics and pesticides have a significant effect on fertility.
  • Computer screens have no current evidence of harm,  but sitting long hours may cause increases in testes temperature and damage sperm

What Can You Do To Improve Your chance of Having a Baby?


  • Avoid plastics in food preparation and storage
  • Follow a diet of whole foods ( not packaged and processed)
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don't smoke
  • Avoid spas, saunas and hot tubs to reduce the chance of testicular heating. There is no solid evidence that wearing tight underwear or cycling long distances regularly have impacts on sperm quality due to heating effects, but it is something to be aware of for men who already have a low sperm count who are trying to conceive
  • There is limited evidence that taking sperm supplements improve sperm health and numbers currently( but considerable advertising from supplement companies suggesting a combination of Vitamin E, Vitamin C, 1-carnitine, coenzyme Q10, zinc and selenium is of benefit.) The studies have inconsistent results and the published studies are very few in number.  There is no drug yet found that infertile men can take, nor added to sperm in the laboratory to improve how sperm swim or work.
  • Lobby politicians for improved parental leave and childcare to improve the economic and social circumstances to enable couple to have children earlier in life
  • Lobby for improved monitoring of substances in our water and food 
  • Come to your GP to have your overall health check-up


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