Infertility is a topic shrouded in myth and misconception. The few misconceptions presented here only scratch the surface and it should therefore be the prerogative of any prospective parent to get their facts straight before attempting conception. Because, contrary to popular belief, getting pregnant is not always easy.
When a couple is diagnosed infertile, first thoughts often run to the woman. She’s barren. She can’t conceive. She’s not a “complete” woman because she can’t get pregnant. As nature would have it, problems with infertility are equally due to male and female conditions.
Infertility is the inability to get pregnant after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse. Statistics suggest that 35 to 40 percent of the problems are caused by male conditions, another 35 to 40 percent by female conditions, and the last 20 to 30 percent a combination of the two, plus a small percentage of unknown causes.
Men’s part in fertilization is quite amazing. About 200 million sperm are mixed with semen to form ejaculate. In most men, 15 to 45 million of these sperm are healthy enough to fertilize an egg, although only 400 survive after a man ejaculates. Only 40 of those 400 reach the vicinity of the egg, surviving the toxic environment of the semen and the hostile environment of the vagina. After another process called capacitation (an explosion that allows the remaining sperm to drill a hole through the tough outer layer of the egg), only one lone sperm reaches the egg for fertilization and conception.
Top Causes of Male Infertility
- Low sperm count
- Slow sperm motility (movement)
- Abnormal morphology (shape and size of sperm)
- Problems with semen
Even though specialists know the causes of male infertility, what’s not always known is the cause behind the cause. There are many factors – lifestyle, genetics, physiology – that might explain low sperm count, slow sperm mobility, abnormal sperm shape, and so on.
Recent developments in treatment have made fertility possible for many men. But before undergoing any complicated procedures, there are some simple lifestyle changes that can better the odds of a successful conception.
Have you ever heard the debate about whether men should wear boxers or briefs? It goes something like this: Briefs are tighter, so it’s possible that they can raise your body temperature above the norm for sperm to survive. So if a guy wants to be really fertile, boxers are the way to go. Truth is, this has yet to be scientifically proven. But if you’re trying to get pregnant, there’s no harm in wearing loose clothing and staying out of hot tubs and saunas.
Since infertility affects one in 25 men these days, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude is the way to go if you’re considering becoming a father.
Additional Factors That May Inhibit
- Certain antibiotics
- Narcotics (cocaine, speed, etc.)
- Variococeles (varicose veins in the testicles)
- Untreated infections (sexually transmitted and otherwise)
- Radiation and chemotherapy
- Exposure to DES during your mother’s pregnancy
- Excessive stress
- Testosterone deficiency
LIFESTYLE DO’S AND DONT’S
These tips are helpful for any couple trying to conceive, whether or not infertility has been diagnosed.
- Stop smoking. Smoking tobacco has been linked to low sperm counts and sluggish mobility.
- Decrease your drinking. Alcohol can reduce the production of normally formed sperm.
- Value your vitamins. Low levels of vitamin C and zinc can cause sperm to clump together.
- Excessive exercise could lower your sperm count indirectly by lowering the amount of testosterone in your body. And stay off the steroids – they can cause testicular shrinkage.
5 MAN MYTHS
Say Yes To Daily Sex
The truth is that conceiving is all about timing. Generally, the best time to conceive is from the 11th to the 17th day of a woman’s menstrual cycle, having sex daily will therefore do little to improve fertility; A notion confirmed by a recent study that found no difference in pregnancy rates between couples that had sex daily and those who had sex every other day. Another study suggests that daily sex may improve the quality of sperm, so while it may not increase your chances of conception, it might not hurt either.
Men don’t have fertility cycles
Generally speaking, the time of year and time of day can affect a man’s sperm count. Sperm counts are higher in the winter and lower in the summer. Sperm counts for men are also highest in the morning, mirroring the time when male hormone levels are also at a daily high. Despite these observations, experts do not really agree whether the time of day or year have an effect on fertility rates when looking at the big picture.
Bicycling doesn’t affect fertility
Sitting on a bicycle saddle for more than 30 minutes at a time, especially if wearing tight bicycle shorts, raises scrotal temperatures and temporarily affects sperm production. It’s the raising of scrotal temperatures that is mostly to blame. This is why it is ill-advised for men to frequent the hot tub or sauna when hoping to conceive. Even sitting with a laptop on your lap for prolonged periods may decrease sperm counts.
Lubricants won’t speed up sperm
Lubricants decrease friction, which increases pleasure, but they won’t help you get pregnant. In fact, using lubricants can actually be counterproductive. The same is true for lotions and even saliva.
When it comes to weight, only an excess affects sperm
Most men know that obesity can affect sperm production, but the lesser-known fact is that being too thin can reduce sperm count as well. Being underweight is believed to affect sperm because it is linked to hormonal imbalances as well as malnutrition. Findings from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Barcelona showed that men with an optimal BMI (Body Mass Index) of 20 to 25 had higher levels of normal sperm than those who were either overweight or underweight.