13 Common Factors That Affects Fertility In Males
Fertility issues are not just a women’s problem. In fact, somewhere around one-third of all fertility problems are caused by reproductive issues in the man (one-third are from the woman and one-third are either a combination or unknown).
So what causes all these issues for men?
Are any male reproductive issues reversible?
What can men do to prevent any of these factors from every being a problem? Is there any hope?
I’m here to answer all these questions about male infertility.
Here’s something important to remember: many cases of infertility – for both men and women – never have a clear cause. But that doesn’t mean there are not factors that greatly influence a man’s fertility. Once you understand the things that can lead to infertility, you have the power to fix them.
Of course, there are many different things that can affect a man’s fertility. This isn’t a comprehensive list. But we will cover 13 of the most common factors.
13 Common Factors That Affects Fertility In Males
1. Sperm Problems
Without a doubt, the No. 1 reason a man is dealing with infertility issues will have to do with sperm. In fact, somewhere around 90% of all male infertility is do to sperm problems. Most commonly this includes:
- Low sperm count: The average, healthy male will have somewhere between 20 million and 300 million sperm per ejaculation – if you have under 10 million, you might have issues.
- Poor sperm motility (which the name for sperm movement): Doctors and scientists measure sperm movement on a scale from 0 to 4. 3 or 4 is good. Less movement can lead to fertility problems.
- Abnormal shape of the sperm: Many men have some abnormally shaped sperm in each ejaculation. But if too many are abnormal in shape or size, you may have fertility issues.
Just because you have sperm problems does not mean there is no hope for you. Talk to your doctor about your options.
Varicocele is a condition that causes the veins that are supposed to drain the testicles to swell up. Fortunately it is a reversible problem that a doctor can take care of.
Though the exact cause for varicocele is not entirely known, some believe it has to do with the testicle area’s temperature regulation.
3. Infections/Sexually Transmitted Infections
Any sort of infection in your reproductive organ region can affect male fertility. This includes things like testicle infection, as well as sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea or chlamydia.
Sometimes infections will cause irreversible damage to the testicles. Yet even in those cases, some fertility intervention methods can make pregnancy possible.
Since many STDs/STIs can be present without any symptoms, regular screenings are very important. If there is any chance at all that you can have STD before you start trying to have a baby, get checked first.
4. Problems Ejaculating
There are different types of ejaculation issues that can affect a man’s fertility. Two common problems are:
- Retrograde Ejaculation: Sperm comes out of the urethra, the same tube attached to the bladder and removes urine from the body. Retrograde ejaculation is when the semen does not come out of the penis, but instead goes up the bladder.
- No Ejaculation: Some conditions do not allow men to ejaculate. However, many of these men still produce sperm. Medical assistance can remove the sperm, so the couple can become pregnant.
5. Imbalanced Hormones
Women are not the only ones who can struggle with hormone imbalances.
If men have any sort of hormonal issue – from sex hormones like testosterone to other hormones in the thyroid or adrenals – their fertility can be negatively affected.
If you think this may be a problem for you, talk to your doctor about ways to balance your hormones and/or increase your testosterone.
6. Undescended Testicles
If one or both of a man’s testicles did not descend during fetal development, the man may have fertility problems.
When the testicles are inside the body, they stay considerably warmer than they should be. Your testicles are supposed to stay cooler than your other body parts – by a few degrees.
If a man’s testicles have not descended by birth, doctors will normally schedule a surgery at somewhere between 6 and 18 months of age. So it’s not a very common problem to have in adulthood.
7. Cancer, Tumors, and Cancer Treatment
It is possible that any type of cancer can end up affecting a man’s fertility. But testicular cancer and prostate cancer in particular increase those chances.
The said truth is if the cancer itself does not harm a man’s fertility, the treatment can. Chemotherapy and radiation are both medical interventions that can lower sperm count, sometimes irreversibility.
Tumors that are malignant or benign can lead to male infertility. If the tumor is benign, surgical removal may completely get rid of the problem.
8. Overheated Testicles
Men who are frequently in hot environments like a sauna or hot tub can actually reduce their sperm count. Sometimes even wearing tight clothing, experiencing a high fever, or placing a laptop on your lap for a long period can have the same effect.
Normally, this is a temporary issue. The problem really arises if you continually engage in these behaviors. You may keep yourself at low sperm count at all times. When you are trying to become pregnant, be intentional about keep the area cool.
9. Environmental Pollutants
Two main types of environmental exposure can lead to male infertility: industrial chemicals and heavy metal exposure.
Normally exposure will have to be prolonged in order to truly (or even irreversibly) damage a man’s fertility. So if you work an environment where you have plenty of exposure to these substances, you should consider finding employment elsewhere.
It is important to also get rid of any toxic household chemicals found in cleaners and toiletry products. Switching to organic produce can help you avoid consuming harmful pesticides.
If a man goes into get an x-ray, it is possible that his sperm count will go down for a short time. But eventually it will bounce back up. However, if a man is exposed to x-rays or any sort of radiation for a long period time or if he’s exposed to high doses, there can be a permanent reduction in sperm count
It is extremely important that all men who go to get x-rays discuss proper sperm protection methods with the doctor/x-ray technician.
Weight problems on either side – overweight or underweight – can affect a man’s fertility. Your weight has an effect on:
- Sperm count
- Sperm quality
If you are underweight or overweight and hoping to get pregnant, it is important to get on an eating plan and exercise regimen right away. Crash diets or extreme weight loss methods may make the situation worse. Instead, you should focus on:
- Diet: Eat plenty of produce, nuts, beans, seeds, lean proteins, and nutrient-rich, gluten-free grains like quinoa. Drink plenty of water and greatly reduce your sugar intake.
- Exercise: Work with a trainer to build a sustainable program that effective, but not extreme
12. Drugs, Alcohol, and Smoking
All three of these “guilty pleasures” will negatively affect a man’s fertility. It is important to immediately quit drugs and smoking and to reduce alcohol intake if you are trying to have a baby anytime soon.
Steroids can also be lumped into this group as well. While on a steroid cycle, men’s testicles can actually shrink and sperm count can go way down.
I should also note that it is not only illicit drugs that can lead to infertility. Infertility can be the side effect of some necessary medications including antifungal pills and ulcer drugs. Ask your doctor if any of your prescriptions can affect your reproductive organs/hormones.
Stress can play a role in male fertility by affecting countless parts of the reproductive system and overall health.
Plus, trying to have a baby and/or dealing with infertility can add a huge extra dose of stress to any man (and woman!).
To combat this, make sure you are intentionally including stress-reducing activities into your life, including:
- Making social connections
- Spending time in nature
- Participating in hobbies (musical instruments or woodworking)
What’s interesting about infertility is this age risk factor would be extremely high on a list of things that affect female fertility, but it comes up last on our list for men.
Why is that?
Because – for the most part – age doesn’t matter significantly when it comes to male fertility. Women will have a fairly dramatic decrease in fertility around age 35.
But age is still a factor. The older a man gets, he can expect a lower sperm count and poorer sperm motility.
Ways To Boost Male Fertility
Now that you have an idea of all the factors that negatively affect a man’s fertility, let’s focus on some of the positive factors that boost your fertility.
- Regular, moderate exercise: Getting in the habit of exercising multiple days a week can really boost your fertility; if you’re not a gym-lover, you can join a sports league, take walks in your neighborhood park, or find an indoor pool for swimming laps
- Eating a “clean” diet: Make sure your plate is always filled with produce to ensure adequate vitamin and mineral consumption
- Supplements: Getting plenty of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin E is so important for male fertility; if you do not get enough of these in your diet, taking supplements (similar in concept to a female prenatal) can be super beneficial
- Sleep: Getting plenty of sleep is essential for all your body systems and hormones to function properly
A Man’s Fertility Journey
Any young, healthy couple that has been trying to become pregnant for a year without any success should get checked by a doctor for potential fertility issues. If a man feels like any of these infertility factors applies to him, he may want to make a doctor’s appointment even before that first year is over.
Fortunately, there are many different medical treatments or medications that reverse these fertility issues and make having your own baby a real possibility.