9 Fascinating Things No One Ever Taught You About Male Fertility
While fertility is often thought of as a women's issue, there's a lot to consider and know about male fertility, too. If a couple is trying to conceive, for example, it's important for both partners to know they're playing an important role. And they should both bear in mind the man's health, in all steps of the process.
Because the truth is, "infertility impacts one in eight couples and the causes vary — but male infertility is a third of the cause," Dr. David Ryley, a fertility specialist with Progyny’s Provider Network, tells Bustle. "In fact, male infertility is the most common single cause that is diagnosed when a couple presents for an infertility evaluation."
Infertility can be an extremely tough issue for any couple to face. But knowledge really is power. "Learning about fertility factors arm people with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their lifestyle in an effort to avoid infertility later in life," Dr. Ryley says. And that includes making changes even if infertility has been diagnosed.
Learning more about it can help men make good decisions regarding their health. But sometimes it's just helpful to learn new facts, whether you're interested in conceiving or not. Read on below for some surprising things no one ever taught you about male fertility, according to experts.
1. High Temperatures Are Bad For Sperm
"Sperm count decreases in hotter environments," Dr. Ryley says, including places like hot tubs and saunas. This is why many doctors recommend men avoid soaking in hot water, or doing anything that will heat up that general area — such as placing a laptop on their lap — when trying to conceive.
2. Vegans Have A Lower Sperm Count
"While leading a plant-based lifestyle has other health benefits, fertility is not one of them," Dr. Ryley says. "Men who don’t eat meat have significantly lower sperm count."
But there are things that can be done to boost fertility, that don't involve altering a personal choice like being vegetarian or vegan. As Dr. Ryley says, "Alternate sources of protein would be useful to offset this issue."
3. Smoking Has A Negative Impact On Sperm
Pretty much everyone knows that smoking is harmful to health. But did you know it can also have an impact on male fertility?
"Smoking both cigarettes and marijuana have a negative impact on sperm," Dr. Ryley says. "Smoke can lead to hormonal issues and thus, abnormal sperm. Long-term tobacco use may be associated with an increased rate of birth defects among future children."
And new research has found that smoking marijuana may cause problems, too. "Many people are [...] unaware of the fact that the use of marijuana is very detrimental to sperm quality," reproductive and endocrinology specialist Dr. Shahin Ghadir, tells Bustle. So that may be something to consider when trying to conceive.
4. STIs Can Lead To Infertility
While it's important to practice safe sex in order to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs), doing so can also be beneficial when it comes to maintaining fertility.
"Undiagnosed STIs can lead to inflammation and blockage of the male reproductive system," Dr. Ryley says. These infections can cause infertility, so it’s important to get regular STI scans."
5. Ejaculate Can Contain 300 Million Sperm
"Each time a healthy, fertile man ejaculates, he sends out anywhere from 200-300 million sperm in search of an egg," Dr. Peter Rizk, OB/GYN, fertility expert at Fairhaven Health, tells Bustle. It may be tough to believe that ejaculate contains that many sperm. But it is, in fact, the case.
6. There's More To Semen Than Sperm
While many people think semen is made up mostly of sperm, that's not actually true. As Dr. Rizk says, "95-55 percent of semen is made up of a thick fluid that allows sperm to swim to their destination. This [...] natural swimming pool is made up of proteins, fructose, minerals, and vitamins."
7. The Environment Can Play A Role
Environmental factors can definitely contribute to infertility. "The weather and exposure to chemicals in plastics and pesticides are all known contributors to a decrease in sperm count and quality," Dr. Rizk says. "Play it safe and avoid eating out plastic containers and choose organic [foods] whenever possible."
8. Men Have A Biological Clock
While people may not have an actual biological clock, it is common for some folks to feel some pressure to conceive as they get older. And that goes for men, too.
If a man is hoping to become a father, and is concerned about his age, he can make some changes to ensure his sperm stays healthy, Dr. Rizk says. Eating a well-balanced diet is a good place to start.
9. Stress Can Make It Tough To Conceive
Stress effects everyone differently, but there is some evidence that suggests stress impacts male fertility. "When men are chronically stressed, the body outputs cortisol, the stress hormone," Lauren Chambers, a nutrition and hormone health coach, tells Bustle, which can in turn impact the creation of sex hormones, like testosterone.
"Naturally, if your body is in survival mode, having a child isn’t part of the agenda," Chambers says. "The result? Less circulating testosterone and decreased production of sperm."
Infertility can be a tough issue to navigate. But by being aware of the factors at play, when it comes to male fertility, some pitfalls can be avoided. If you have any questions, reaching out to a fertility doctor can be a great first step.