While it is generally agreed that it takes two to have a baby and every couple is expected to be in optimum health to have babies, medical experts claim men are having more fertility challenge now. Sperm concentration in men is said to have decreased by a third since 1990s while sperm count is said to have decreased by half over the past 50 years. Studies are also showing genetic abnormalities in sperm particularly in older men. For men therefore, quantity, quality and motility of spermatozoa are seen as important factors in fertility.
Since the male factor is a prominent cause of infertility in couples, sperm donation has become vital in assisted conception treatment. A study by the Society for the Study of Male Reproduction stated that "a male factor is solely responsible in about 20 per cent of infertile couples and contributory in another 30 to 40 per cent." According to experts, even when sperm numbers are great, a high proportion of men may have DNA damage that significantly impairs the chances of natural conception. Besides, male sperm deteriorates with age the same way it does for women.
Studies have also shown that if a man has poor health, smokes, drinks too much or has a bad diet, it's very likely his sperms are also going to be unhealthy. Indeed, investigation by Saturday PUNCH showed that sperm has become a commodity in high demand in Lagos. The Chief Consultant and Head, Obstetrician and Fertility Department, Eko Hospitals, Dr. Adegbite Ogunmokun, said fertility problem, based on recent experience, had tilted more towards the male factor.
He said, "If 10 couples come in, there will be problem with the male in six of them, using our parameter of 20 million sperm per millimetre. But 10 to 15 years ago, maybe about four out of 10 men would have problem." Our correspondents, who visited some fertility centres in Lagos, learnt that more men are having low sperm count, thus necessitating the need for more volunteer donors. But because donors are scare, fertility clinics offer as much as N50,000 to men who are interested in selling their sperm. They also pay more when sellers have special features that the beneficiaries are looking for. Like blood sellers, investigations show that many people in Lagos, especially students, now sell their sperms anytime they need money. A student of the University of Lagos, who identified himself as John, said he had sold sperm to a few fertility centres in Lagos. John said he had been funding his education for the past two years with what he earned from selling his sperm. John said he was introduced to the programme by a friend and that he had in turn brought in two other friends to 'business'. "I've sold to a number of fertility centres.
The money has really helped me to stay in school. It takes care of my tuition and some other personal needs," John said, with a measure of satisfaction. "It's cool money, really and I'm also doing a service to mankind by helping out some people in need. Even friends that I introduced to it have not turned back since then." An employee in a Lagos fertility clinic, who identified himself as Olufunsho, told Saturday PUNCH that some women would pay any amount to get a sperm seller with the features they want. He said, "We pay N50,000 here but there are times when women come in and request that, at all cost, they must get a tall man. The person can earn more when they make such requests,especially if we don't have any that fits the profile in our bank. "There was a time a woman came and requested that we get a tall man for her at all cost. I showed her the samples we had, but she did not like the profile. She said she was not satisfied with the heights. And we were unable to get what she wanted from the sellers that came at the time. "The sellers that came then were either AS, or positive with hepatitis B or had low sperm count. We had up to twelve sellers that came and we were unable to get anybody. In such cases, we could offer a lot more when we find the right person.
Sometimes, such people are also in a position to negotiate for what they want." However, subsequent drops attract lesser amounts of money for the same seller. To sell sperm, the person, according to Olufunsho, must stay off sex for five days. He undergoes some tests to confirm that he is not HIV positive and that he also has healthy sperm among others.