Rapid dating

My younger brother doesn't have any fertility problems.

Nobody has done research into "normal" Thalidomide babies.' Lorraine and Karl illustrate perfectly the toll that difficulties in conceiving can take on a marriage.

'We felt it was us against the world,' says Rebecca.

Like many men, Karl was given no particular reason for his low sperm count.

The news that it would be impossible for him to have a child came as a shock. I had no idea there was a problem, and there was never a reason given. Karl admits that he always wondered if the fact that his mother took Thalidomide while pregnant with him could have had any influence on his infertility. When the scandal broke in 1962, GPs offered free abortions, but my mother was too far gone by two weeks.' Unlike the majority of Thalidomide babies, Karl was born seemingly healthy. 'Since the infertility was diagnosed, I started questioning whether there were underlying problems caused by the drug.

Factors such as women eating a lot of beef during pregnancy - which means they have consumed a diet rich in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are potentially damaging chemicals - to the issue of obesity during pregnancy and a woman's exposure to smoke, pesticides, traffic fumes, plastics and even soya beans are all thought to have a bearing on a male foetus's future fertility.

Experts talk of a 'window' of testicular development that begins in the growing foetus and ends in the first six months of life.

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'We were told that Ed had practically zero per cent sperm,' says Rebecca.

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