Reality TV star Chris Hughes has recently been making waves with his new BBC documentary "Me, My Brother and Our Balls" that aired on TV last week. The show aims to turn the conversation around male infertility more mainstream, as the subject is often downplayed in issues regarding infertility, which is commonly implied to be a 'female problem'.
The Love Island star first rose to fame when he volunteered to undergo a live testicular examination on the popular morning show, This Morning. Chris claims he was largely unfazed about the procedure being documented on live TV given his comprehensive history of testicular surgeries. Plus, the point of broadcasting the exam publicly was to destigmatize the issue of male infertility, a problem Chris believes is not talked about enough or openly.
Starring alongside Chris is his brother Ben, for whom the show really hits home. Inspired by his brother's bold move of having a live testicular exam, Ben decided to do a self-exam, following which a lump was found in his testicles.
Diagnosed with testicular cancer, Ben opted to freeze his sperm for potential use later on. During the process however, Ben found out that his sperm count was nearly non-existent.
"My testosterone levels were far too low to produce any sperm," he says.
Following his cancer diagnosis and the subsequent operation to remove the mass, Ben has been trying desperately to find the cause of it in order to be able to educate the show's audience about early detection and possible preventive measures.
"I think I'm in a better position than most of my friends who've never checked their fertility, and I think myself quite lucky that I'm in that position where I've already started having mine looked at and something's being done about it," he says.
The show comes in at a time when multiple studies conducted propose that male fertility is on a steady decline, at least across the United States and Europe, since the past few decades. A pair of studies presented at the Scientific Congress of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in Denver in 2018 suggested that American and European men’s sperm count and sperm motility have substantially declined in the past 10 years. The causes for this dramatic dip remain largely unknown, however some experts suggest possible chemical exposures, drug use and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle might be the culprits.
Whatever might be the underlying causes for the increase in male infertility, the first step towards addressing the problem is to acknowledge and talk about it openly, something that Chris and Ben are aiming to achieve through their show.
"I feel like men can find it a bit demoralizing, it's a bit of a masculinity issue. Men can feel guilty if they can't get a woman pregnant but it's as much of their issue as it is a female issue."
With this documentary, the brother duo wishes to raise awareness about early detection and self examination so that men can be more knowledgable about their reproductive health proactively. Had it not been for Chris, Ben claims his condition would have progressed unnoticed. Ben says he's now on a testosterone medication to improve his sperm count. He hopes the docu-series would similarly benefit millions of viewers all over to be cognizant about their reproductive health before it's too late.