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Fertility health centre

Men's infertility

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Infertility means a couple don't begin a pregnancy, despite having regular unprotected sex. Infertility affects around one in six couples.

Fertility problems may affect the woman, the man or both of them.

Causes of male infertility

  • Low sperm count or sperm quality
  • Problems with the tubes carrying sperm, such as a past bacterial infection that caused scarring and blocked tubes within the epididymis as it joins the vas
  • Erection and ejaculation problems
  • Inflamed testes ( orchitis)
  • Medical treatment, such as some medication, radiotherapy or surgery for a hernia, undescended testes or twisted testicles
  • Genetic problems
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Working with chemicals or radiation
  • Sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia causing swelling and tenderness of the scrotum
  • Stress
  • Age: Male fertility is thought to decline with age, although it is not known to what extent.

Boosting male fertility

A doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes to help improve male fertility:

  • Stop smoking. Smoking has been linked to low sperm counts and sluggish motility. Long-term use of cannabis (marijuana) can result in low sperm count and abnormally developed sperm.
  • Decrease alcohol consumption. Alcohol can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.
  • Watch weight. Both overweight and underweight men can have fertility problems. With too much weight, there can be hormonal disturbances, and when a man's too lean, he can have decreased sperm count and functionality.
  • Exercise in moderation. Excessive exercise could lower your sperm count indirectly by lowering the amount of testosterone in your body. Use of anabolic steroids can cause testicular shrinkage, resulting in infertility.
  • Value vitamins. Low levels of vitamin C and zinc can cause sperm to clump together. Vitamin E can counteract excess free-oxygen radicals, which can also affect sperm quality.
  • Turn your back on toxins. Landscapers, builders, manufacturing workers and men who have regular contact with environmental toxins or poisons (pesticides, insecticides, lead, radiation or heavy metals) are all at risk of infertility.

Boxers or briefs?

Have you ever heard the debate about whether men should wear boxers or briefs? The theory is that briefs are tighter, so it's possible that your body temperature can rise above the level the testicles require for good sperm production. So if a man wants to be really fertile, boxers are the better choice. The truth is, this has yet to be scientifically proven. However, if you and your partner are trying for pregnancy, there's no harm in wearing loose clothing and staying out of hot baths and saunas.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude will give you the best chances if you're considering becoming a father.

Reviewed on June 16, 2017

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