While infertility is often thought of as solely a woman's problem, the importance of male fertility should not be ignored.
How common is male infertility? According to the latest research, about 15% of all couples who are trying to conceive will fail after one year of unprotected intercourse. In about 30% of these cases, the problem can be traced to the man alone. In another 20% of these cases, both the man and woman suffer from medical conditions that affect fertility.
Causes of Male Infertility
There are many possible causes of male infertility. For example:
- Poor sperm motility or abnormally shaped sperm can make it difficult for a man to impregnate his partner. Depending upon the man's medical history, fertility drugs, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or artificial insemination with or without donor sperm may be recommended.
- Varicocele, or enlarged veins, in the scrotum can raise the temperature in the testes. This can affect sperm production. Men who have this condition will need surgery to restore fertility.
- Some men have a blockage in their ejaculatory duct that will prevent sperm from getting into the ejaculate fluid. This condition can often be corrected with surgery.
- After infection, trauma, testicular torsion, or a previous vasectomy, some men develop antibodies that kill healthy sperm. In this case, treatments such as artificial insemination or intracytoplasmic sperm injection are often recommended.
In addition to the factors mentioned above, some men are diagnosed with "unexplained fertility problems" that have no verifiable medical cause. In this case, environmental toxins may be a contributing factor. Men with "unexplained fertility problems" can be treated with fertility drugs and artificial insemination or assisted reproductive technologies procedures such as in vitro fertilization.
Although there is no maximum age at which a man can father a child, it is important to realize that age does have a negative effect on male fertility. Research has proven that sperm quality decreases with age.
The subject of male fertility is often misunderstood. For example:
- While many people believe a man must give up his daily cup of coffee to successfully father a child, caffeine has not been proven to have an effect on male fertility.
- The choice to wear boxers or briefs is simply a matter of personal preference-undergarments have no effect on a man's ability to conceive.
- While most urologists consider 20 million sperm per ml of ejaculate to be a normal sperm count, it is quite possible to father a child with less.
- Infertility is not a reflection of a man's masculinity-acting more "macho" won't help you conceive.
- Taking Viagra does not affect a man's ability to father a child.
- Frequent masturbation does not cause infertility.
Take Steps to Protecting Male Fertility
Although many causes of infertility are genetic, there are still several steps a man can take to improve his odds of being able to father a child. For example, researchers believe the following factors can enhance male fertility:
- Avoiding illegal drugs
- Abstaining from alcohol
- Avoiding hot tubs and other situations that involve prolonged exposure to high temperatures
- Practicing safe sex to prevent the risk of developing an STD
- Taking a daily multivitamin and eating a well balanced diet
- Making regular exercise a priority
- Maintaining a healthy body weight