Fertility expert Zita West answers your questions, in this video, she discusses male fertility.
Matthew Lorenzo: Fertility problems can be very upsetting and put a huge amount of strain on even the strongest relationships. Zeta West is one of the top fertility experts in the country, and she joined us in the studio. Welcome Zeta. Zeta West: Thank you. Matthew Lorenzo: Can you just tell us a little about what your male program is all about? Zeta West: Yeah, I think the focus has been very much on women, and men need looking after too and very often men feel very embarrassed if they've got a problem with fertility because it's not something you go on down to the pub and you talk about, and then they got woman to talk to. So we offer somewhere they can come and they can get a good basic program, where they can have the semen analysis plus they can sort of need someone talk to them and find out exactly what's happening. Matthew Lorenzo: So is that -- one of the biggest hurdle is actually getting the man through your door? Zeta West: Well, it use to be. 10-years-ago when I was doing this, it was the women that came all the time and now men come -- they come as couples which is fantastic. You can usually tell where the problem lies by the way a man walks into the room, arms-folded, head down, and he is embarrassed, and there is no need to be embarrass, because male fertility is becoming more and more common. Matthew Lorenzo: So why is the focus has been so heavily on the women then, because it takes too after all? Zeta West: I know it does takes too and I don't why the focus has been on the women for so long. But most men won't make any changes unless they find that they have got a problem, and it's women that would drive everything. She will go and buy the vitamins, the pills, the books and to expect her chap to follow suit and very often man don't unless there is the problem. Matthew Lorenzo: I can see why it might be a problem for some men not for all obviously because is in the pub, of course, and nothing is ever wrong in that department and there is this oh, look at that and all the rest of that. I mean it's totally with how things might be. Zeta West: Yeah, absolutely. It has to change and I think that slowly it is started to change and I think that it's no longer the stigma that it was probably 10-years-ago. Matthew Lorenzo: So do you find there are certain groups, certain profession that are particular susceptible? Zeta West: I think life style factors have a big impact on male fertility and so cab drivers, long distance lorry drivers, if you are doing a lot of marathon running, and lot of athletics that can affect sperm. Matthew Lorenzo: But by how much? Zeta West: A lot. It can have an impact on the difference between getting pregnant or not. So by making life style changes and again I have given them a fact sheet and men like science so that's all referenced and being able to tell them not to sort of have jacuzzis, not to wear tight underpants, how much alcohol they're drinking, how many cigarettes they are smoking, what is impacting on their fertility that they are doing everyday in their lives. Matthew Lorenzo: I mean sitting in your office and you are consulting whatever you call it, I don't understand, well, I disagree with that, although they all know that perhaps they are ignoring? Zeta West: No, men are pretty bad, they will come, they want to make changes but very often they will only make the changes like I said earlier, if there is a problem. So there is no problem, they are much more reluctant to cut down on alcohol, cigarettes etcetera. So the problem has to be there to begin with, to get them to change. It's very, very hard, they will come and they will do a nutritional program. They are quite happy to sort of come and find out what vitamins, minerals etcetera they need to take. What they need to change in their life style? And it has to be made easy, it's no good. A little bit of what you fancy does is good, it's no good cutting absolutely everything out and that's why they find hard is the thought that they are going to have to give up absolutely everything. Matthew Lorenzo: Well, I can see, how they, they might find it easy to talk to you, they are going to come and see you, but then they have to go elsewhere don't they? And surely they could do better couldn't they at some hospitals when they're asking for a sample for example? Zeta West: Oh no I do. I think -- men find it hugely embarrassing and even where they go to produce their sample, very often it's quite a dark room in the middle of a corridor somewhere and very often man will say to me it's absolutely horrendous, you are not going to hear the cleaner outside hovering. It was impossible sort of to produce a sample under stress like this. So it's difficult and I do think it could be made better. Matthew Lorenzo: So is the problem growing or people being more grown up about it, more mature and come to see people at you? Zeta West: I think the problem is growing but I also think that men are changing and they are sort of accepting what is happening more easily. Men are producing sperm 24 hours a day, seven days a week, unlike a woman who is producing one egg a month. So there is a lot that can be done over a period of time, three to four months to improve the sperm. Again Matthew, it's not just about getting pregnant, it's a future health of that child as well. So it can have a big impact. Matthew Lorenzo: What about stress levels? It's not just the stress that you might undergo giving a sample or going to an IVF clinic or whatever, but stress generally, how does that affect things? Zeta West: Well, it affect things hugely, because most of the couples I sit down with, again they will talk about their sex life being affected trying for a baby. You start of trying for baby and it's absolutely fine by six or seven months along the road. A woman want sex in the middle of the month and man have to come home from work and perform and very often there is a lot of performance anxiety around as well, which man find it very, very hard to discuss or talk about. Matthew Lorenzo: A modern issues when I say the life we live, the environment we now found ourselves in, they must all have an effect to? Zeta West: Well they do, because a lot of the foods we eat which are highly processed, full of chemicals and preservatives can have the detrimental effect on the sperm as well. They can have sort of hormones that mimic female hormones. So again cause problems of fertility. Matthew Lorenzo: So people who come to you and whatever they got a diet sheet or way of life sheet? Zeta West: Well they would come, they usually come as a couple and so I sort of sit with a couple and they fill in a questionnaire and I work exactly what's going on. If I feel it's weighted more towards the man, then I will suggest there is a sort of semen analysis and very often in many clinic it's just the semen analysis is done and that's just shows you part of the picture very often man might have infections they don't even realize that they have got which a cause of antibiotics might be able to help. So it's looking at the overall picture then coming up with the program usually nutritional to try and sort of look at their diet, what they are doing wrong, what they could improve on. The rest of the program is things like hypnotherapy and acupuncture and it's very hard to get man into the clinic to have acupuncture. Matthew Lorenzo: Really? Zeta West: They'll go as far as nutrition and that would be it. Matthew Lorenzo: I am surprised, I would have thought the old semen analysis would do for that, what you do in that analysis, what you are actually looking for? Zeta West: Well you are looking for a lot, you are looking, it tells you a story about that person and how their sperm has been affected. So you are looking at the count, how many sperm they have got, you are looking at the morphology which is the shape and the structure of the sperm in terms of the heads and tails etcetera. So you are looking at an overall picture of the general health of the sperm and its capability of getting a woman pregnant. Matthew Lorenzo: You mentioned diet, so what's the ideal diet for someone trying to have a baby? Zeta West: The ideal diet I find very often when I sit and chat to men, I analysis about alcohol for example, I analysis how much they drink and -- Matthew Lorenzo: They lie. Zeta West: Yeah, they lie about how much they drink, but again you will find that some men will be good all week and then they'll go out the pub on Friday night and they'll binge drink, so they might have two bottles of wine or lots and lots of beer, and it's much better to spread your alcohol intake out with having some days when you are not drinking at all than binge drinking because it's going to affect the sperm four months on. So really important to get things into perspective. Again, other things are your food, highly processed food. If you are busy or eating on the rum, you are not really putting the time into preparation. So looking at food that will help with your fertility. So foods that are rich in antioxidants, fruits, vegetables, nut seeds, etcetera. Matthew Lorenzo: It's going to happen isn't it? I am sure it has happened when you can't actually help, God has decided that you are not going to have children, so can you offer any help after that? Zeta West: It's very, very difficult because for some men they don't have any sperm at all, there is genetic reasons, there are lots of things that are going on in their lives and that's where you come to a decision, you sit with a couple and you help them and get through that and decide what they can do and I think years ago when couples were trying for babies, they either had a baby or they didn't have a baby. There were sort of no in between. Today is very, very hard because there is no end. You start of trying, then you go down an IVF route then it's might be ICSI. If you don't have sperm, it's donor's sperm, if you don't have eggs it's donor's eggs. So this can go on for 10 to 15 years. It's quite incredible, what a huge chunk of your life, it can start to and take. Matthew Lorenzo: I had a friend who went through ICSI, I didn't explain it very well, but it seem to me that -- is that a million to one shot? Zeta West: No, ICSI has a good success rate, that's why they inject the sperm into the egg and it does have a high success rate. Matthew Lorenzo: How much does all of this cost? Zeta West: It cost a lot of money, in terms of my -- in terms of IVF. Matthew Lorenzo: IVF, you say you have got a chance you need this or you ought to go here or whatever, it's not going to be free after that, is it? Zeta West: No, it's not. I mean I really believe about life style factors and how it's affecting fertility regardless of whether you are having IVF or trying naturally and there is more evidence to support the work I am doing now. So if you are overweight, if you are underweight if you are not having sex, which is very often many of the couples I see aren't having enough sex. Just sort of helping them with their lifestyle factors but working very much with western medicine as well, because the two have to work hand-in-hand. They have to sort of complement one another. So in terms of cost, when you get down to the IVF route it can cost three-and-a-half to 4000 pounds up to 10,000 pounds, it's a lot of money. Matthew Lorenzo: And that has to be pay, there is no chance that's going to become a National Health? Zeta West: It is, it is available on the National Health but not to everybody. And there is age cut offs as well. So majority of clients I have seen do end up paying privately for that treatment. Matthew Lorenzo: I was going to mention age, because people are having children later and later in life because it suits them, it was not their own fault then. Zeta West: I think there is a lot of panic around. I think that what I see is women are being blamed a lot for having careers etcetera than having children. I think the hard thing is we have done a lot of women at the service in terms of telling them that they can have everything. I think years ago we use to think, that you went to school, you go to job, then you got your house, your man etcetera, life follow it certain patterns. I don't think it does and I think in the future we will see women going back to having children younger and then their careers later on. Matthew Lorenzo: We know that age effects women fertility, now I am 29 now, am I less fertile that I might even at 21? Zeta West: For women it affects, definitely affects the age, you are absolutely right, but for men ages affected as well, and I think the difficult thing is when I have men that come into the clinic that are in second-time relationships and they've had children from the previous relationship that may be 10-years-ago, and they will say nothing wrong with my sperm, I have got two kids, one is 10, one is 17. They are surprised sometimes when they do, do an analysis and it has changed, so it does affect them as they get older. Matthew Lorenzo: I can imagine going to my doctor and hearing talk about various procedures but not may be acupuncture or hypnotherapy and other, is that mumbo jumbo? Zeta West: No, I don't think it is. I think hypnotherapy can be really beneficial for stress and making woman feel positive and we use a lot for that I think it's very, very important and again, I do believe there are mental blocks. When I sit down with a woman and I say to her is that anything in your psyche that might be stopping this from happening for you, and very often her man will say, yeah, yeah is this your warrior or whatever and some have had past terminations which I think can effect because they feel very guilty that they have got pregnant in the past and it's not going to happen for them this time. There is a lot issues sometimes around different relationships, and I think it can have an effect on fertility definitely, specially unexplained, where there is no explanation when everything seems to be okay. Matthew Lorenzo: You've touched on it earlier on, when it gets to a business, not all would be best for the child but now you are going to be here, a half past of that month Tuesday night because that's going to be exactly the right -- I can see how that might become a problem. Zeta West: Oh, it does. There is emails to the office, there is phone calls to the office to get back and what happens as the man comes back from work, they have a big blazing around those sex, no baby, woman do get obsessed and they do sort of need help to sort of put things into perspective and that's where I think the work that I am doing is very good, is to come up with a plan. Plan A is to conceive naturally and plan B is to move onto IVF and I think that today too many women are running down or too many couples I should say are running down of route of IVF first without looking at the basics and for many of the women we see today years ago you were on the pill for six months up to two years. Today the women I am seeing have been on the pill for 15 to 20 years so they have no idea about their fertile times. Matthew Lorenzo: So what's your average clients, is that someone who been to their GP have been recommended or do they come to you first? Zeta West: I get a lot of GP referrals but the clients I tend to see now the more difficult cases that have been trying for a long time and they just need help in which direction to go, what they should be doing. So I see right across the board, I mean I am delighted to say that I am now starting to see women as young as 28 - 30 who have just come off the pill and they don't want to run down a fertility route or they are frightened of being withstand of fertility route. They just want some reassurance that everything is okay and permission to sort of try, right up to women who have got into their mid 40s, who are looking at going down at an egg donation route. Matthew Lorenzo: That's been terrific if Mr. And Mrs. Jones come back to you with a child. Zeta West: Oh, it's wonderful. I have a wall full of photographs and I just love the work that I do and what is good is that you are seeing people in the real sense of the world, there is no game, there is nothing, you are just helping them get through a process. Matthew Lorenzo: We can't talk specific with a one-to-one situation here, but if someone's watching and recognizes a few of these symptoms, what would your advice would be to him or her? Zeta West: I think the advice would be, if they are going to down a complementary route to work with western medicine, I think very often when couples are trying they sort of see the alternative as being the thing rather than the western medicine. I think that you should work hand-in-hand with western medicine that's very important. I think you should do a little checklist and that's what I always trying to do with couples. All you having enough sex, are you sure you are having sex at the right time, looking at your lifestyle? What should work life balance like? How do you working? Are you going to bed early? Are you sleeping? What is going on in your life that might be stopping this from happening? Looking at your diet, looking at your nutrition and obviously I have written a book, so there is a lot of information in the book. So that's the first port of call, if you like. Matthew Lorenzo: What's the book called? Zeta West: Zita West's Guide to Getting Pregnant. Matthew Lorenzo: Alright it's a free plug. Before we finish we've got some old wives' tales, we have got an old wives' tales in the studio gallery actually and one of these is frequent sex can weaken the sperm supplies? Zeta West: No, again that's a myth. And I think that many men come into the clinic and they say, you know, I am saving it out because I wanted to be really strong. The more sex you have, the more motile it is and the better it is and I think as well trying to get across to couples is that window to try for baby is six days, leading up to ovulation and a day after and the eggs fertilize above for 12-24 hours. So you need as much sperm up they are ready to pounce in the egg when it comes out. So the more sex you have, sperm lasts to three to five days, the more likely the chances of conceiving. Matthew Lorenzo: So one of the uplifting those. Zeta, thanks very much. Zeta West: Okay, thank you!