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Male fertility fallacies

Truths and misconceptions about reproductive health.

Article Author: Johnny Woodhouse

Article Date:

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When a couple is having a hard time conceiving, the attention often falls on the woman. But the truth is, the quality of a man’s sperm can be affected by a number of factors.

Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease can all take a toll on male fertility. Environmental exposure to toxic chemicals or pesticides can impact a man’s reproductive health and the quality of sperm. There’s even a condition called varicocele, similar to varicose veins, in which the veins on a man’s testicles become enlarged over time, causing them to swell and heat up, lowering sperm count.

With all the information on the internet, it can be hard to know what to believe. Kenneth Son, MD, a urologist with Baptist Urology Group, helped separate truth from rumor.

Male fertility facts

The following factors may reduce a man's fertility:

  • Age: Sperm quality decreases as men get older.
  • Alcohol consumption: Excessive drinking can lower sperm count and testosterone levels.
  • Cigarette use: Men who smoke tend to have lower semen volumes.
  • Cell phone storage in pockets: Radiofrequency radiation emitted by cell phones has the potential to reduce sperm viability.
  • Laptop use: Testicular temperature remains elevated while a man sits with a laptop for prolonged periods of time, affecting the health and vitality of sperm.
  • Stress: Men with higher stress and anxiety levels produced less semen and had lower sperm counts than others.

Male fertility fiction

Dr. Son said you don't have to worry about:

  • Cycling: There is no strong data to suggest riding a bike affects long-term male fertility.
  • Genetics: Male infertility is not passed down.
  • Hot tubs: The effect on sperm count is only temporary while testes are submerged in hot water. Sperm will regenerate after a man gets out of the hot water.
  • Underwear: Tight-fitting briefs can elevate testicle temps but are unlikely to reduce sperm health enough to cause infertility.

“Approximately 15% of couples will experience infertility, and half of these couples will have a male factor as the problem,” said Dr. Son. “A physical exam and semen analysis could determine the need for additional testing to define which conditions could be corrected and which may be irreversible or necessitate assisted reproductive techniques.”

If men are looking to boost their fertility, the first step is to try eating healthier, exercising more and limiting sugary drinks.

For more answers about fertility, contact your Baptist Health primary care physician, who may refer you to a specialist if needed. If you don’t have a primary care provider, call 904.202.4YOU or visit Baptist Primary Care to find a doctor near you.

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