It’s a topic that doesn’t get discussed too often at the pub or on the footy field. But the truth is that there are many men trying to become a dad, and it isn’t always as easy as they first thought.
With Men’s Health week upon us, it seems timely to dispel some myths and discuss some tips about men’s fertility.
Myth: Male Infertility isn’t common
With so much discussion around women’s fertility in the media, men seem to rarely get a mention. In Australia, male infertility affects about one in 20 men – and is actually the biggest factor preventing couples from conceiving after a woman’s age.
Last year, a Cambridge University researcher found that as our society is “obsessed with male virility”, but talking about men’s biological clocks appears to be socially taboo. Since male factor contributes to about half of the causes of fertility issues, the first thing we need to do is talk about it.
Myth: Age isn’t a factor
“But Rod Steward fathered a baby at 66!” Yes, but like celebrity mums over 45, this is the exception rather than the rule. After the age of 45, men have higher rates of fertility complications as their sperm volume, motility and morphology (shape) declines. There is also the increased likelihood of damage or breaks to the sperm DNA that may result in a negative effect on fertility.
Myth: Lifestyle doesn’t matter
The truth is, like women, a man’s lifestyle can directly affect his fertility. The good news is there are some simple changes you can make to positively impact your overall health and that of your sperm.
What can I do to improve my fertility?
Improve Your Diet
Men should eat a healthy diet rich in fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, and whole grains; olive oil should replace animal fats; nutrients and vitamins, such as vitamin C and vitamin E that are renowned for their antioxidant qualities and believed to increase sperm health.
Maintain a healthy BMI
Having a low or high Body Mass Index (BMI) can affect sperm count. If you’re overweight, try to reduce the weight as obesity may be linked with infertility – one study suggested a gain of 10kg decreases male fertility by approximately 10%.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
That’s not to say that a beer or a glass of wine here and there is a problem, but regular heavy nights out are not going to serve your purposes well. Long-term effects of chronic alcohol use include erectile dysfunction, reduced libido, and subnormal sperm production. Moderation is the key.
Scientific evidence suggests that smoking worsens sperm production, motility and morphology (shape.) Nicotine can cause testicular atrophy (a condition where the testes diminish in size and can result in loss of function.) Marijuana can decrease sperm density and motility, and increase the number of abnormal sperm. If you’re a smoker, making every effort to quit is a good idea for your overall health and your fertility!
Some Don’t Like it Hot
Working in hot temperatures, or simply relaxing, such as in a sauna frequently, can increase testicular temperature - resulting in abnormal sperm count and quality. It’s best to avoid taking long hot baths on a regular basis.
Recreational Drugs & Steroids
Cocaine can impair erectile function by suppressing the hormone that produces testosterone. High doses of amphetamines can lead to a diminished libido. Steroids are proven to affect sperm production and function. That’s not even taking into account the other risks associated with these drugs. If you’re a user, you need to stop!
Take the online male fertility check
If you want to know more about your individual circumstance, answer a few simple questions on our Male Fertility Check tool and get some insights into your reproductive health and the things you could do to improve your fertility now.
Male fertility issues can be overcome
If you do get to the point where you need to see a Fertility Specialist, at least for men, fertility tests are pretty straight forward. Secondly, in general, if your specialist then tells you there is a problem with your sperm there are ways to resolve this. This may require lifestyle changes, or surgery. Or you could go through an IVF cycle with ICSI to overcome a problem with sperm count or quality. The point is, once you understand the issue, there are generally ways to address it.