20th August 2015
Infertility is usually defined as the inability to conceive a baby despite regular, unprotected sexual intercourse over a period of about a year. Approximately 15% of couples are infertile and in about 50% of these couples male infertility plays a role.
Male fertility is more complex than many people think. In order to impregnate a female, a male must not only produce healthy sperm but that sperm must be successfully carried into the semen. There must be sufficient fully functional sperm in the semen able to get to where it is required for conception. If any of these factors are compromised, a man might experience infertility.
Male infertility is generally defined by low sperm production, sperm delivery problems, or a combination of the two. In many cases, male infertility is caused by chronic health problems, injuries, and illnesses, but lifestyle choices also play a role.
So, what lifestyle choices may contribute to male infertility?
- Smoking. Smoking has been shown to impair the motility of sperm. In other words, if a man smokes, his sperm may not be able to move (swim) properly, which will reduce the likelihood of conception. Smoking also damages blood vessels, which can lead to erectile dysfunction.
- Drinking. Having a drink or two won’t cause a man to be infertile but having more than two alcoholic drinks on a daily basis can affect sperm quality and quantity, contribute to erectile dysfunction, reduce the size of the testicles and reduce testosterone levels.
- Taking certain medications. Some prescription medications, particularly those for psoriasis and ulcers, can reduce sperm production significantly. Cancer medications have also been linked to male infertility.
- Taking illegal drugs. Continued regular use of cocaine and marijuana has been shown to reduce sperm count by as much as 50%.
- Heat exposure to the genitals. Increased scrotal temperature for prolonged periods has been linked to impaired sperm production and a lowered sperm count. A few minutes in the sauna or hot tub won’t hurt anything, but it’s a good idea to avoid frequent use. In addition, laptops can get quite hot, so always use a table or desk.
- Vigorous exercise. Certain prolonged vigorous activities such as bicycling, horseback riding, or sitting on a hard or poorly adjusted bicycle seat may have a negative impact on male fertility, albeit rare.
- Eating poorly. What you eat plays an important role in fertility. A healthy diet rich in vitamins C and E is particularly beneficial. These antioxidants can boost sperm production and improve sperm quality. If you eat a poor diet, you may increase the risk of infertility.
- Your clothing. Wearing tight underwear may also affect your sperm count negatively.
Experiencing infertility issues can be stressful and frustrating, for both men and women. However, the good news is that making some simple changes in your lifestyle choices may help improve your chances of having a child.