Infertility has traditionally been thought of as a woman’s issue. But since men are 50% of the initial pregnancy equation, it’s no surprise men cause or contribute to infertility in about half of all cases. What can a man do to maximize his fertility? Remember, anything that improves quality of health, like adequate sleep and nutrition, should improve fertility.
So take care of yourself. Avoid marijuana, cocaine, tobacco, testosterone, or any over-the-counter androgen like DHEA. Don’t have more than two alcoholic drinks a day. Stay away from hot baths and whirlpools, since the high temperatures slow down sperm making. If these efforts don’t pay off in pregnancy, male infertility issues are typically caused by problems with making or moving the sperm.
A few causes of abnormal sperm production or a low sperm count include:
- Varicocele. This is a varicose vein in the scrotum.The extra heat from the vein can lead to low sperm count and impaired sperm movement. (It’s the most common cause of correctable male infertility.)
- An undescended testicle
- Infections in the prostate, testicle, or another part of the body that causes a fever
- Genetic abnormalities
- Hormone problems
- Medications, such as or anti-seizure medicines or anabolic steroids
Sometimes the sperm is normal in the testicles but can’t move to its destination, or the sperm in the semen are abnormal, low in number, or nonexistent. Infertility causes involving the transport of sperm include:
- Absence of vas deferens (the main sperm pipeline). This is a genetic condition.
- Retrograde ejaculation. Semen ejaculates backwards into the bladder instead of out the penis. Usually caused by previous surgery.
- Anti-sperm antibodies. Antibodies can abnormally attack a man’s own sperm on their way to the egg.
- An obstruction. This can occur anywhere in the pipeline between testicles and penis.
Up to one-quarter of infertile men have idiopathic infertility, meaning they have no identifiable reason for abnormal or low sperm counts. In some cases, these problems can be reversed, but other times they can’t. The first step is an evaluation by a physician specializing in male infertility.
But even if things seem bleak, keep trying. As many as 25 to 35% of so-called “infertile” couples eventually have a child without any treatment at all, especially if they are keeping track of their ovulation schedule with a fertility monitor.