The alarming rise in Covid cases and the question of when we’re actually going to get our vaccines continue to cause anxiety attacks and bad dreams among many. But there is said to be another “alarming” health concern getting buried in all this focus on coronavirus.
The Inquirer today published a story that talks about the decline in reproductive health among men. The title notes the dwindling sperm count and shrinking penises—which, depending on where you’re coming from, can sound quite alarming, or funny. “I don’t know the veracity of this article,” said our doctor friend who we forwarded the article to. “Sounds silly to me.”
The story mentions a study co-authored by Dr. Shanna Swan in 2017 noting the significant decrease in sperm count observed among males in the West.
What’s even more concerning is a statement that Swan talks about in her book “Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.” Dr. Swan says, “If you look at the curve on sperm count and project it forward—which is always risky—it reaches zero in 2045.”
Wanting a picture of the Philippine situation, we decided to check on the state of the Pinoy males’ reproductive health via a trusted urologist in the country. His name is Dr. JV Prodigalidad, head of the Urology Department at Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Alabang.
“I don’t really see a lot of patients complaining their penis is small,” Dr JV tells ANCX. “A few do, but it’s mostly because they’re getting old.”
As one ages, says Dr. JV, prepubic fats tend to develop, so the penis may appear shorter. “Kasi natatabunan yung base ng fat.” Comorbidities, such as hypertension, vascular problems (abnormal condition of the blood vessels), as well as change in hormonal levels, can also cause an actual decrease in penile length.
Dr. JV also notes there are medications that affect blood flow to the penis such as antidepressants and prostate drugs, causing the organ to become smaller. Smoking, he mentions, does the same thing—it can cause blood vessels to constrict, which can cause the male member to decrease in size.
Meanwhile, anabolic steroids, which are used by bodybuilders to increase muscle mass, can also have an undesirable effect. “What it does is it provides additional testosterone. The testosterone that is being produced by your testicles will then go down, because it senses na madaming testosterone ang body. So lumiliit ang penis at ang testicles nila,” explains the doctor.
While Pinoy males don’t seem bothered by penile length, at least according to Dr. JV, he does observe that many patients are seeking consultations due to erectile dysfunction. “Yan ang dami talaga,” he says. But he thinks it’s because they know there’s a remedy for it. “They know that there are pills that they can take.” Dr. JV says even an ordinary Juan knows about Viagra. He says patients now are more vocal when it comes to expressing these concerns—“not only the males, sometimes even their partners.”
The doctor notes, too, that he’s received more complaints about erectile dysfunction during this pandemic. “It can be due to organic causes such as diabetes, hypertension, or they had prostate surgeries. It can also be psychogenic, meaning, the physical illnesses are believed to arise from emotional or mental stressors. Dyan na papasok ang stress, lack of sleep, partner issues—maybe because they’re mostly at home, wala silang ibang libangan,” he says.
As for reproductive problems, Dr. JV says he has not seen a rise on fertility concerns over the last 10 years. “Halos pareho lang,” he says. He thinks the advances in reproductive technology has allowed more couples now to deal with infertility, which is why more males also see a urologist.
How can Filipino men ensure their sperm count won’t dwindle and their penis won’t shrink? The doctor advises the maintenance of general well-being—that is, “eat healthy, maintain a good weight, exercise, get enough rest, avoid smoking, alcohol and drug use, monitor your medications, and avoid stress.”
The reproductive health specialist also says supplements like vitamin E and zinc have been proven to do wonders in men’s health. He also warns about supplements that claim to enhance sexual performance, especially those that aren’t FDA approved.