Updated: Mar 11, 2021
March 11th 2021
It is great to see people finally talking openly about male fertility. And hats off to the BBC for providing a platform with two superb documentaries on the topic.
“Me, My Brother and Our Balls”
Firstly, the BBC screened “Me, My Brother and Our Balls” in October 2020.
This documentary looked into male fertility issues for two brothers, Chris and Ben Hughes. Apparently, Chris Hughes is a star from Love Island, the British dating reality series. I didn’t know this, but I do know about male fertility. Since X&Y Fertility specialises in this area of medicine, it was good to see both Chris and Ben openly talk about their situations.
Chris had suffered testicular health scares in the past, and was promoting awareness of testicular cancer. However, devastatingly, his brother Ben is then diagnosed with the condition. The programme accompanies both brothers as Ben undergoes an orchidectomy and they both undergo fertility investigations.
If such a programme can get men talking about sperm, this has to be good news, even if it encourages just one man to follow-up on a potential concern. In the UK, there are around 2,300 new testicular cancer cases every year. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 33 years, but around 6% of cases occur in children and teens. However, testicular cancer treatment has a high 5-year survival rate for men of 95%.
“Rhod Gilbert: Stand Up to Infertility”
Secondly, we had Rhod Gilbert’s BBC documentary screened in February 2021.
Rhod is a comedian who I’d previously seen hosting “Never Mind The Buzzcocks”. Since the title of that music show is a play on the infamous title of a Sex Pistols album, it is ironic that Rhod is now facing male infertility, and talking about the show’s namesake.
Rhod tells us that he’s been informed that 98% of his sperm “don’t swim straight”. He is stunned by the lack of support for male infertility, which leads to him starting the 'HIMFertility' campaign to raise awareness of the problem.
He and his TV crew attend the Fertility Show, an annual event at London’s Olympia, that has been created solely for people who need information on fertility. You can tell how Rhod doesn’t want to be there, particularly as he is without his partner. I can sympathise with Rhod’s plight at that event, as I remember walking in one year on my own, and being approached by clinics who thought I was a single man seeking donor eggs and a surrogate (I was actually helping on the professional bodies stand as one of the andrologists!).
Back to Rhod’s documentary, and we see him seeking other men who might also have a sperm problem and be willing to talk about it. Rhod meets up with Benjan Zephaniah, a Rastafarian dub poet who tells us he has no sperm. Whilst it is awful news to hear, Benjan and Rhod aren’t alone. Far from it. Male infertility is on the rise, accounting for roughly 50% of the cases of infertility. Gone are the days, when infertility was assumed (so wrongly) to be just a female problem.
“I felt so frustrated. You can’t fix the situation. That’s probably one of the reasons men don’t talk.”
So let’s start the conversation.
We encourage men to come out and get tested. Talk to andrologists – we are out here. We don’t really advertise out services, as we want to respect the personal nature of the topic. That is one of the reasons why we set up X&Y Fertility on New Walk, a private and discrete area of Leicester. We also ensure that we provide free private parking, so that guys can just park up and pop in, without any fuss (or having to pay).
Most male fertility problems can be treated with assisted conception treatments and hopefully Rhod’s campaign will encourage the conversation in the wider community.