China’s Lethargic Sperm and Economic Development

November 7, 2010

Just for the record: I’m relying solely on third-party information for this post. I haven’t been tested myself recently, although to be perfectly honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if my little guys are just as apathetic about their ultimate goal in life as their progenitor — more apt to enjoy a nice easy drift dive than go in for a competitive swim against the current, if you catch my meaning.

If you’ve been keeping up on quality of life issues in China, this story should not surprise you. Economic development has its disadvantages and leads to a lot of unintended consequences, and we’re all just learning exactly what those things are.

Here’s another one for the list:

More than 40 million people in China are suffering infertility on the mainland and the number is still increasing, found the latest epidemiology study.

Ouch. That’s a lot of folks. And if you consider that the average male human has anywhere from a few million to hundreds of million per ejaculate, we’re talking well into the gajillions of dysfunctional little critters, or perhaps a serious plunge in population. These numbers do vary quite a bit, though. According to “Dr. Lindemann’s Sperm Facts” (I am not making this up), the average human male has 280 million per ejaculate.1

This compares favorably to quite a weak effort from the mouse community (only 50 million) but pales in comparison to the very randy pigs, which come in (oops, pun unintended) at an astounding 8 billion, if we can believe Dr. Lindemann.2

Anyway, I digress. A lot. Any guesses as to why we are experiencing a sudden outbreak of “We’ve been trying for months, doc, but no luck so far”? Before you shout out your answer, remember two things:

1. There might be more than one factor causing infertility.

2. I can’t really hear you if you shout out your answer. Not only am I in a different location, but I wrote this post ages ago.

[While you're thinking, imagine that the Jeopardy music is playing in the background. Are you ready with your answer yet?]

OK, here goes:

Factors like heavy workloads, stress, environmental pollution and unhealthy lifestyles are known to be related to a rising infertility level, said Huang Hefeng, director of the Zhejiang reproductive medical center[.]

Hmm, those things sound mighty familiar. In fact, I literally don’t know anyone who is not experiencing all of those things on a daily basis. One factor is bad enough, but all of them at the same time? That can’t be good.

Does anyone remember the old TV show Taxi? Christopher Lloyd played a character named Reverend Jim, a drugged-out 60s reject who was totally spaced out much of the time. My favorite quote of all time was when he was taking his driver’s test to become a cab driver. A friend was helping him fill out the application, which included a list of risk factors. Answering “yes” to any of these things would presumably mean getting your application rejected. At one point the friend asks “Mental illness or narcotic addiction?” to which Reverend Jim answers, with the typical slurred speech and spaced-out look, “Now that’s a tough choice!”

Heavy workload, high stress, pollution, unhealthy lifestyles — that’s a really tough choice.

But hey, let’s not worry too much about this. No one’s asking you to slow down your hectic lifestyle. I mean, seriously, if everyone did that, GDP would take a hit — no one wants that. Besides, we always have technology to fall back on.

The study cited above was posted on a new website from the Chinese Medical Association and Merck. The latter just so happens to have lots of infertility treatments to sell us, stellar products like “Gonal-f” and “Ovidrel” — sounds cool, and just a tad titillating!

Now that you know there’s a good chance that your miniscule foot soldiers are paying the price for your go-go lifestyle, best you man-up and run over to the pharmacy. Well, at least get your driver to take you there. No need to tire yourself out.
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  1. If you are reading this to your kids, you can substitute the word “ejaculate” for “every time Daddy and Mommy are happy together.”[]
  2. Just FYI, rabbits made the list at 280, the same level as humans. This makes the old saying “fuck like bunnies” a real head scratcher. If you can figure it out, feel free to drop me a line at funfertilityfacts@chinahearsay.ridiculous.com[]

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