Prof. Oladapo Ashiru

It is now well known that the human ability to get pregnant decreases with age, which explains why only one per cent of teenagers are infertile, while a vast majority of infertile couples are in their thirties.It is well documented that from our teenage years, when the last thing we want is a child, to our mid-thirties when we are finally secure enough to start our family, our ability to conceive decreases almost by 25 per cent.

Research shows that in the past 30 years, infertility has increased and those over the age of 30 have the most problems.

If you are in your thirties and have been working to establish yourself in your profession, please take note.  In planning to start a family in a few years, you should realise there is a 25 per cent chance that you will not be able to do so without medical intervention. It is for this reason that the definition of infertility was made to include a person of 35 years who has not been able to achieve pregnancy within six months of attempt at conception.

Other factors that may make it difficult for you to get pregnant include abnormal organs, immunological factors and another malfunctioning of the body system. The dramatic increase in infertility over the last 30 years is due to various factors. They include increase in sexually transmitted diseases, presence of environmental toxins in our food, such as heavy metals in fish; environmental pollution, particularly in the oil-producing geographical zones; declining sperm due to absorption of toxic substances and increased tension, as well as anxiety arising from a modern life-style.

In other mammals, the desire to have sexual intercourse is timed to correspond precisely to the period when the female is ovulating or producing eggs for fertilisation. For instance, when the female dog or rabbit is ovulating, it seeks out the male. After intercourse, the female is usually pregnant with multiple pregnancies. Humans, however, desire to have sex at any time. Whether there is an egg that can be fertilised in the woman or not, it makes us reproductively more inefficient than other mammals.

We know that in all species, there is a very short window, a matter of days as a matter of fact, during each month that the female is fertile and can get pregnant with intercourse. The timing of sex is, therefore, crucial if a species is to have an efficient and high fertility rate.

In humans, women go through a period of 14 days when the follicle in the ovary develops. It starts from the first day of menstruation until the egg is sufficiently mature and ready for ovulation. On the last day of the period, the egg is released at ovulation and fertilised within 48 hours. If intercourse occurs at the right time, then the embryo grows and implants in the uterus or womb. If intercourse occurs at another time other than the ovulating period, it is doubtful that the woman will get pregnant in that cycle /month.

Animals go through an “estrus” cycle or “heat.” Humans go through a menstrual cycle. Apart from other hormonal variations, one significant difference between humans and animals is that the female sex hormone, estrogen, which increases just before ovulation in animals is the trigger factor for their sex drive. This hormone is responsible for producing eggs. In other words, animals do not desire to have sex unless there is an egg to be fertilised in the female’s womb.

In humans, the desire for sex is much more complicated and it is not driven by the female sex hormone, but by the male testosterone. It is unique in the animal kingdom and it is primarily a human phenomenon. The small amount of testosterone that the female makes is enough to generate a sexual drive in her. It is only a few women that recognise the slight increase in testosterone around the ovulation period to enable them deliberately initiate sex at the appropriate time to get pregnant.

From sociological studies, the fact that humans make love, facing each other, indicates the communication of direct sexual interest and development of love, permanent mating and a family system. On the contrary,  throughout the animal kingdom, the female squats in her position of “heat” and the male mounts on top of her, facing her rear end. The animals never get to look at each other and do not need to know each other or get emotionally involved for intercourse to take place.

In other words, in animals, sex is not emotional but procreational. For humans, having sex is about expressing emotion and not just to have babies. It makes us less reproductively efficient, which makes infertility familiar in humans because the human reproductive system was never that efficient.

The reproductive system of the human male is also highly inefficient. Most male animals produce 25 million sperms a day, per gram of testicular tissue. Humans produce only 4 million sperms. Just the gorilla, the cheetah and the goose produce less sperm per gram and testicular tissue than humans.

To illustrate the importance of sperm per gram of testicular tissue, the average bull ejaculates about 10 billion sperms, whereas the average fertile man’s ejaculation would contain between 1-5 million sperms. It means that the average cow in a single ejaculation produces sperm that is between 30 and 100 times more than that of the average man. The bull’s sperm will also move three times the speed of the human sperm, in a perfectly straight line, with virtually no abnormal, weak or deformed sperms. A man whose ejaculation has 60 per cent of the sperm moving is lucky. Studies on sperm population find that up to 40 per cent of a man’s sperm are abnormal.

The pig, as an example, also really shows superior fertility. The pig ejaculates an entire pint of sperm on having sex with the sow.  Its orgasm will take a full half hour. Compare this to a mere 120 seconds (2 minutes) for most men. Also, the pig has little screw-like grooves on the end of its penis that fit into a similar groove in the cervix of the female that guarantees that no sperm will leak during intercourse. The amount of sperm in a single pig’s ejaculation is about 400 times higher than the amount of sperm in a single human’s ejaculation and none is lost. In most animals, the sperm cells are arranged in perfect order as they mature from stage to stage. It is not so in humans whose sperm cells, according to histologists, develop in a helter-skelter fashion.

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