WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF MALE FERTILITY?
Fertility can be a complex and emotive topic, and it doesn’t help with lots of conflicting information available online; but getting a handle on the facts surrounding male fertility can help you prepare properly for the mental and physical demands of undergoing fertility treatment if that’s something you’re considering. Here a private fertility clinic in London outlines some of the key causes of male infertility so you can plan properly and get appropriate support along your fertility journey.
Health issues can affect male fertility levels in a variety of ways:
- Infections can interfere with sperm production and transport, including STDs like gonorrhoea or inflammation of the testicles. Infection with the mumps virus can also lead to problems producing good quality sperm.
- A varicocele, which is a swelling of the veins that drain the testicles, can lead to abnormal blood flow resulting in reduced sperm quantity and quality, and scar tissue from surgery or injury can block the passage of semen.
- The body can produce anti-sperm antibodies which attack and damage healthy sperm.
- Pituitary gland problems or hormonal imbalances such as low testosterone can also affect the production and quality of sperm.
- Genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and Klinefelter’s syndrome can contribute to male infertility.
- Both cancerous and benign tumours can affect male reproductive organs, and cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy can detrimentally impact on sperm quality and production.
- Men who have had an undescended testicle in the past might find they struggle with decreased fertility later in life.
- Ejaculation issues are another cause of male infertility, for example, conditions such as retrograde ejaculation (where sperm enters the bladder).
For medical causes of infertility, you’ll need to consult with specialist health professionals about the best course of action to treat any conditions negatively impacting on conception.
Health and lifestyle causes
Leading an unhealthy lifestyle can significantly affect male fertility levels:
- Taking certain drugs can decrease sperm production and quality, for example, taking anabolic steroids often shrinks the testicles, stopping sperm being produced. Using cannabis or cocaine can reduce testosterone levels and libido, while lowering sperm count and reducing sperm motility.
- Drinking alcohol can also lower testosterone levels, decrease sperm production and lead to erectile dysfunction, so it’s best to drink in moderation and not to excess.
- Similarly, smoking can lower sperm count, as can inhaled second hand smoke, so it’s advisable to quit smoking or reduce the amount you smoke (as well as avoiding smoke-filled areas) if you’re trying to conceive.
- Being overweight or obese can impact negatively on fertility in several ways, including causing hormonal imbalances and directly impacting on the quality and production of sperm. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a nutritionally balanced diet will keep your body in the optimum condition for conception.
The good news is that lifestyle factors affecting fertility are the easiest to influence, although altering ingrained habits like smoking or drinking regularly can be difficult. Seek support from health professionals with quitting smoking or losing weight.
Certain environments and exposure to toxins and chemicals can reduce sperm production and quality:
- Elevated temperatures can overheat the testicles, temporarily impairing sperm function and production. For this reason it’s advised not to use saunas or hot tubs too frequently if you’re trying to conceive.
- Exposure to substances such as plasticizers, pesticides, toxic gases, heavy metals and other synthetic materials can negatively impact testosterone levels and sperm health.
- Air pollution is another culprit, something which can lead to abnormal sperm quality.
- Radiation exposure can also affect male fertility levels – high doses of radiation can permanently damage sperm production.
You might find it more difficult to control environmental factors, but it’s worth bearing them in mind when thinking about what you can do to increase your fertility levels and the chances of conception.
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