Although male fertility challenges (e.g., low sperm count) can be overwhelming, it's important to remember that many people experience problems in this area of their lives. Overall, infertility issues affect roughly 10% of couples worldwide, and of that amount, 40% of all cases can be tracked back to a male fertility issue.
Typically, infertility has been unfortunately widely recognized as a "female problem," but more studies show that an equal responsibility is needed to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
With a level approach in mind, the best thing you can do to stay prepared is to understand the different ways that males can experience infertility. This includes what reasons contribute the most to infertility, what procedures and treatments are available, and what common factors may put someone at risk.
Above all else, don't forget that infertility is a collective problem to overcome. There's no reason to feel alone or ashamed during the process because many people are searching for answers, and we’ll walk through many possible causes and common treatment paths today:
The Greatest Fertility Challenge that Men Face
There are plenty of reasons out there that claim to be the cause of male infertility. Stories of men riding their bikes too much or using their computers over their laps are old wives’ tales but the greatest fertility challenge that men face always comes down to the condition of their sperm. For a man to have a good chance at conceiving, he must have sperm that carries a strong volume of semen, that has good motility, and holds the a proper shape for insemination. If any of these factors are out of place, chances of infertility will increase.
Although there are several other factors that can affect these conditions, one of the most diagnosed causes of male infertility that can disrupt sperm health is an issue with the testicles called Varicocele. In this case, veins within the testicles are enlarged, which creates too much heat that damages the quantity and shape of sperm cells. Thankfully, this issue is actually reversible, eventually resulting in heightened sperm levels and functionality, but there are still many others problems that men can encounter.
Here are a few other common fertility issues that men can run into:
The male reproductive organ is a sensitive area, which makes it susceptible to all kinds of infections if one isn't careful. Basically, an infection will compromise sperm health and production, potentially creating scar tissue that can prevent sperm flow. Infections can occur anywhere throughout the reproductive organ, but issues within the epididymis and testicles are particularly harmful. In addition, sexually transmitted diseases (STD) have been known to cause infertility.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse
A drink or two at the end of the day isn't a big deal, but consuming too much alcohol can wreak havoc on your ability to conceive. Primarily, excessive drinking can stifle testosterone levels, which leads to issues with sexual performance and lower sperm counts. Studies also show that liver disease (often caused by alcoholism) has an effect on fertility. Drug use works in the same respect. Recreational drugs, like marijuana and tobacco, are known to decrease the quantity and quality of sperm, whereas prescription drugs and steroids can lower sperm production and create physical abnormalities within the testicles.
Male fertility depends on the healthy transfer of sperm throughout the male reproductive organ, so if anything prevents that process, infertility can arise. This is why problems with ejaculation are a major cause for concern. Ejaculatory problems may include premature ejaculation (ejaculation occurs before having intercourse) and retrograde ejaculation (semen enters the bladder after climax, rather than ejecting through the urethra). To make matters worse, problems with ejaculation can mean that other health issues are at the root of the issue.
When trying to start a family, the overall health of both partners is highly important, which means that staying active and following a healthy diet can greatly improve fertility. When a partner is overweight (male or female), hormones within the body start to change, creating a negative effect on reproductive organs and their functions. Especially for men, obesity will greatly impact the production of sperm and sexual performance, making it even more difficult to achieve pregnancy if other problems are present.
No matter what stage it's in, cancer can have a negative effect on fertility for both men and women. Essentially, cancer cells and tumors can grow within reproductive organs, disrupting their processes or halting them altogether. In some cases, glands that release vital reproductive hormones can be affected (pituitary gland), ultimately causing infertility. For men, this directly relates to sperm production and sperm health. Even cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, can negatively impact fertility.
Although there are many factors that can damage male fertility, all of them boil down to the integrity and efficiency of sperm. Understanding sperm health and the conditions it needs to thrive are key in prevailing against infertility and achieving a healthy pregnancy, so of course, doing whatever you can to protect your sperm and its functions is a no-brainer. However, you'd be surprised at how much confusion there is surrounding male fertility and safeguarding its resilience.
Common Myths About Male Fertility
Aside from major health complications that require other procedures to solve, maintaining one's sperm health can be accomplished on a fairly basic level. Primarily, staying away from drugs and alcohol, eating healthy foods, and getting plenty of exercise will make a huge difference, but somehow, a slew of other problems have surfaced that scare men into making odd lifestyle choices.
The good news is that you shouldn't believe everything you read or hear about. Consulting with a medical professional will help relinquish many doubts or worries you may have about what causes infertility, but to give you some instant relief, here are some common myths that often get confused as fact:
1. Wearing Briefs Decreases Fertility
This statement is completely false. Yes, there is proof that overheating the testicles can lower sperm production and quality, but the amount of heat needed to generate a defect is nowhere close to being created by wearing briefs.
2. Cell Phones and Laptops Near the Groin Cause Issues
Surprisingly, some studies claim that radio-frequency electromagnetic waves distributed by cell phones have the ability to damage sperm cells. Basically, overexposure to these radio waves will affect sperm quality and motility, but the amount of information on this topic is hardly mainstream, which makes it somewhat difficult to believe.
In addition, the act of placing a laptop over or near the groin relates back to the idea of creating too much heat in the testicles. A running laptop will not be able to create that much discomfort, nor will it have the heating power to cause infertility, unlike sitting in a hot tub for long periods of time. However, since laptops and smartphones have the ability to emit and receive Wi-Fi signals, there is some research that suggests how damaging it can be to overall sperm health. To be safe, try not to keep these devices too close to your vital organs, and if you must, then shut off your Wi-Fi connection when not in use.
3. Age Doesn't Have an Impact
Cases of older men bearing children well past their prime isn't uncommon, but generally speaking, age plays a crucial role in the health and status of one's fertility. A good rule of thumb for a man to start worrying about their fertility is after the age of 40. At that time, sperm quality begins to decrease, putting the female partner at a greater risk of having a miscarriage, increasing the odds of birth defects, and even passing along various mental and health disorders. The idea that a man can have healthy sperm throughout his life is a dangerous way to think, and great care should be taken to ensure that a man, no matter what age, is healthy enough to carry out a successful, complication-free pregnancy.
Start Fresh with Kofinas Fertility Group
Regardless of what your experiences have been in the past, trust that with the right kind of guidance and support, having the family of your dreams is entirely possible. Our team of health care professionals are ready and eager to help you along your journey, answering questions and giving you expert advice about treatments and plans that work best for you or a loved one. Remember, male infertility doesn't have to be a frightening problem that one faces alone, and instead, it can be an opportunity to be closer in your relationship with your partner and to reconnect with your personal health.
Are you ready to find answers? Schedule an appointment with us today!