Causes of Male Infertility: Facts vs. Myths

Many factors affect male fertility including age, genetics, hormone imbalances, and the presence of an illness or a chronic sexual transmitted disease. These factors, or a combination, can contribute to low sperm count, poor motility (how well sperm can move), abnormal sperm size or shape, and other problems. Some of these issues are beyond your control. Others, however, can be influenced by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

But first, let’s address five common myths about male infertility:

Myth 1: It’s a female issue. Infertility is too often thought of as primarily a female problem. Yet studies reveal that male infertility is the issue in about 30% of cases where a couple is unable to conceive. And about two million men are diagnosed with infertility each year. So if you’re having trouble conceiving, you may want to have a semen test to check the health of your sperm.

Myth 2: Age is irrelevant. While many men over 40 father children, it’s a fact that sperm health declines after this age. That’s why we only accept donor applications from healthy men under the age of 39. Plus, regardless of the woman’s age, the risk of miscarriage is higher if the man is older than 45. This is also why some men choose to store sperm at a cryobank for later use.

Myth 3: Supplements don’t work. On the contrary, supplements can help increase sperm production, specifically those with zinc, selenium, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and the amino acids L-carnitine (which are in red meats and dairy), and L-arginine (found in nuts, eggs, and red meat).

Myth 4: Hot tubs are fine. Research supports the fact that prolonged, regular use of hot tubs can kill sperm cells by increasing scrotal temperatures. While the occasional short soak is unlikely to do much harm, be wary of long daily dips if you and your partner are trying to conceive.

Myth 5: Stress isn’t a factor. Many scientific studies over the past 25 years have linked psychological stress and infertility. That’s because stress can lead to decreased testosterone, lower sperm count, abnormal sperm production, and decreased sperm motility, all of which negatively affect fertility.

5 Ways to Improve Male Fertility

In general, if your overall health is good, your sperm will likely be healthy, too. To help maintain a healthy lifestyle, and improve fertility, follow the five tips below.

Eat well. Get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and be sure to eat foods rich in folate, zinc, Vitamin D, and calcium. Good sources include leafy greens, beans, citrus fruits, whole grains, shellfish, meat, nuts, lentils, beans, and dark chocolate.

Choose boxers over briefs. An August 2018 study in the journal Human Reproduction showed that men who wore loose-fitting underwear had 25% higher sperm concentration, 17% higher total sperm count, and 33% higher total motile count compared with men who wore tight-fitting underwear.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being either overweight or underweight can negatively affect fertility.

Practice moderation. If you drink alcohol, don’t overdo it. Daily alcohol use can lead to reduced testosterone levels and other problems. This goes for marijuana use as well. It’s not just the hard drugs that can harm fertility.

Get regular exercise. Breaking a sweat at least three times a week contributes to good fertility health by increasing testosterone levels. It also helps relieve stress. The one exception may be long-distance bicycling. Some tests show that spending hours on a bike seat can damage sperm production, so check with your doctor if you’re an avid cyclist.

If you have questions about sperm quality or male fertility, contact one of our experts by calling 206-588-1484 or emailing us.


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