When it comes to reproductive health, women are more associated with the issue than men. It is quite understandable considering mothers are the ‘face‘ of parenthood, but we shouldn’t forget that men also play an important role. It takes two to tango, after all.
So, what do we mean by reproductive health? It encompasses much more than fertility and conception. According to the World Health Organisation, reproductive health focuses on the ability of people to have a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life and have the capability to reproduce. As such, it also includes contraception, sexually transmitted infections as well as infertility. Notably, topics that men don’t like to discuss.
To help start the conversation, we are providing a quick guide to men’s reproductive health cheekily called ‘Football mad? How well do you know your balls?’
A common concern for women and men. While women have many options when choosing contraception, the choice for men is limited.
Birth control options for men include abstinence, condoms and vasectomy. Despite popular belief, condoms do not guarantee 100% protection against pregnancy. Withdrawal may be the most common method of birth control but it’s a practice we don’t recommend as sperm can be released into the vagina before ejaculation.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed from one person to another through unprotected sex or genital contact. As STIs are quite common, it is important to protect yourself during sexual intercourse.
How common are STIs? They are more common than you might think. For example, 11 – 35% of all new cases of curable STIs reported around the world occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Sadly, the true number may be much higher as many people who have had unprotected sex have not necessarily been tested.
Despite the awareness of STIs such as HIV and AIDs, few men know the symptoms. Common symptoms include pain or burning during urination, a need to urinate more frequently, pain during ejaculation, abnormal discharge from the penis particularly colored or foul-smelling discharge bumps, blisters, or sores on the penis or genitals.
Our culture promotes abstinence before marriage, however, if you are unable to abstain, practice safe sex by using a condom.
Some couples may find it very difficult to conceive naturally. Male infertility is diagnosed when after testing both partners, reproductive problems have been found in the man.
A topic that is often very difficult to initiate let alone discuss, it is something that we should not shy from. Male infertility accounts for a whopping 40 – 50% of infertility cases.
The list of what can cause infertility is quite long though we doubt surprising. Common causes include low or no sperm count, damaged testicles, sterilization, problems with ejaculation, low testosterone level, certain medications e.g. chemotherapy, high alcohol consumption & smoking, untreated STIs and stress.
There are no obvious signs of infertility as intercourse, erections and ejaculation normally happen without difficulty. Furthermore, as the quantity and appearance of the ejaculated semen seem normal to the naked eye, medical tests are needed to confirm infertility. Listen here for practical tips on Male Infertility.
A final word
It’s important that men know and understand their bodies, for there is a lot more to it than the obvious external reproductive organs. There is no shame in wanting to take an active interest in what goes on ‘under the hood’.
Don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider should you have any questions or concerns. You only have one body – look after it and it will look after you.