At LetsGetChecked, we spoke with Dr. Dominic Rowley about potential male fertility problems. Male fertility issues account for up to one-third of couples that experience trouble with conception.
- What is sperm count?
- What causes male fertility issues?
- What are other causes of male infertility?
- Who should get tested?
Did you know that according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, more than 90% of male infertility problems cases are due to low sperm counts, poor sperm quality, or both? A lot of the time, fertility issues are automatically pinned on women, when male fertility problems can be a big issue for couples trying to conceive.
What is a sperm count?
Over the past 40 years, the average man’s sperm count has dropped almost 60%, which is an alarming statistic. But what exactly is a sperm count? There are a couple of things that are measured medically to determine it.
If you go to your doctor and undergo a sperm analysis or send your semen off for analysis, scientists are looking for both the quantity and quality of the sperm.
They’re also analysing the sperm size, shape, tail length and if they swim well, all of this data ultimately builds up what is known as a sperm count.
What causes male fertility issues?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to or prevent male fertility issues. These factors are divided up into categories: lifestyle, exercise, weight, genetics and some medical conditions, as well as their treatments.
Certain lifestyle factors such as heavy smoking, drinking and use of recreational drugs, particularly marijuana, are known to impact a man’s fertility potential. Smoking marijuana has been shown to reduce sperm count and sperm quality significantly.
Excessive cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption all contribute to reducing sperm count. It would be recommended to cut down on consumption or quit any of the above factors, for fertility purposes.
Exercise is another factor that contributes to male fertility issues. Excessive exercise can increase stress hormones (such as cortisol), which can reduce the amount of testosterone in your body, this in turn will reduce the amount of sperm being produced.
Similarly, not exercising enough will have the same effects to a man’s fertility by reducing the level of testosterone in the body.
Similar to women trying to conceive, any extremes in weight will be a negative factor for a man’s fertility potential.
If you are very underweight or very overweight, this will have an affect on your testosterone and other fertility relevant hormones. Both result in a reduction in testosterone that will affect the quality of your sperm.
Genetics is a factor of male fertility issues that unfortunately cannot be modified by a change in lifestyle. Someone may have a genetically low sperm count, which cannot be prevented.
A man could also have certain conditions like an autoimmune condition where antibodies are produced, which attack the sperm. This would become evident if you have undergone a detailed fertility test in a clinic with a fertility specialist.
What are other causes of male fertility problems?
A really important point to make about male fertility and trying to conceive is regarding the testicles. Your testicles, where sperm is produced, are located outside of your body for a reason. Sperm needs to be at a lower temperature than the rest of your body.
This means that tight fitting underwear and having a laptop on your lap all day long have a negative effect on sperm quality. It’s advised to wear loose-fitting underwear and not to have a laptop on your lap, so that the temperature of your groin is not increased.
Who should get tested?
A lot of male patients show increased concern in fertility issues, which is a lot of the time unfounded. If trying to conceive with a partner, it would be recommended to be having unprotected sex for a year before you should be undergoing a sperm analysis test.
Learn more about the causes of male infertility with Dr. Dominic Rowley:
Read about the most common Symptoms in Men
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley