Dr. Parry, leading female fertility expert and Board Certified OBGYN/REI, and Dr. Moss, Board-Certified Urologist, and male-factor fertility specialist, discuss the misconceptions around male fertility.
Male fertility specialists are relatively few in number, and consequently there is a misconception that male infertility is not as important as female infertility.
When it comes to fertility struggles, the focus often falls on women and their reproductive health. However, it’s important to remember that male fertility also plays a significant role in the process. In fact, one to six couples will experience infertility in their lifetime, making it a common and emotionally difficult issue. While infertility is commonly thought to be almost exclusively a female problem, understanding and addressing male factor infertility is just as crucial to promote conception.
Men’s sexual health is a significant factor in male infertility, including erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, premature ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation. Speciality support is necessary for men with abnormal semen concentration, motility, or morphology. Even men with normal semen testing results should consider seeing a reproductive urologist or urologist for answers to sexual dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, or low testosterone.
Dr. Moss and Dr. Parry explain that many men are hesitant to verbalize their struggles with these issues due to feelings of embarrassment. This is why it’s important for men visit specialists who can ask the right questions and create a safe space for them to talk about their concerns.
When it comes to risk factors, a semen analysis is just the starting point.
When evaluating semen analysis results, Dr. Parry focuses less on morphology and more on concentration and motility. Even if the semen testing is normal, he still recommends seeing a reproductive urologist or fertility specialist to address any other concerns that may be impacting fertility, such as sexual dysfunction or low testosterone .
It’s important to note that not all medications will boost sperm content. In fact, Dr. Moss emphasizes that some people are falsely told that testosterone will boost their sperm count, which is not the case. This can lead to even more fertility struggles and should be avoided.
Here is Dr. Moss recounting a patient who was struggling with fertility due to his supplements:
“I saw a gentleman last week who was taking a T booster that was causing him to be infertile. His testosterone was through the roof. He brought up a supplement that he was taking. And it turned out to not be a daily supplement as he thought, but a T booster. Sometimes they look into these supplements and they go, whoa, whoa, this is not a supplement. This actually contains testosterone.”
Beyond knowing what is in your supplements, it’s important to consult with a specialists who can steer you away from things that might affect your ability to conceive.
Factors that can affect male fertility
Dr. Moss notes that small lifestyle changes can also have a significant impact on male fertility.
Some medications, such as calcium channel blockers, can negatively affect sperm production . However, any changes to medication must be coordinated with the prescribing doctor and a semen analysis must be done to assess the extent of the problem. In addition to medications, certain occupations, such as long-distance truck drivers. Drivers who have a high body mass index may experience boiled sperm due to the heat generated from the thighs being sandwiched together.
Dr. Moss also mentions how the anatomy of sperm and missing or defective parts in sperm can affect the chances of conceiving. Once again, it’s crucial not to use supplemental testosterone which can contribute to lower sperm count and mishappen sperm.
A sperm has three core parts: the head, midpiece, and tail. The head contains the DNA, the midpiece is the engine that drives the tail, and the tail is the propeller that moves the sperm forward. If any of these parts are missing or damaged, it can be much harder to conceive.He says that commonly law enforcement officers and professional athletes have this issue due to excessive testosterone supplement usage.
Dr. Moss also noted that making small changes in lifestyle and occupation, steps as simple as avoiding hot tubs, can make a big difference in improving fertility. Of course, the most prominent way to improve fertility is to visit the specialist themselves, as they can point you to the root cause of any issues you might be dealing with.
How Medications can affect sperm production
Medications can have a significant impact on sperm production and fertility in men. Here are some of the most common medications that can affect sperm production:
- Testosterone replacement therapy: Testosterone is essential for the production of sperm, and low testosterone levels can lead to infertility. However, as Dr. Moss explains, excessive use of testosterone replacement therapy can also decrease sperm production.
- Chemotherapy drugs: Chemotherapy drugs are commonly used to treat cancer, but they can also damage sperm production. Depending on the type of chemotherapy drug and the dosage, sperm production may be temporarily or permanently affected.
- Antidepressants: Some antidepressants can affect sperm production, particularly those that increase levels of serotonin in the brain. These drugs can decrease sperm count and motility.
- Antibiotics: Some antibiotics, such as tetracycline and sulfonamides, can interfere with the production of sperm. They can also decrease sperm motility and increase abnormal sperm morphology.
- Antihypertensive drugs: Antihypertensive drugs, such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers, can affect sperm production by decreasing blood flow to the testes. This can lead to a decrease in sperm count and motility.
- Immunosuppressive drugs: Immunosuppressive drugs, such as cyclosporine and tacrolimus, are commonly used to prevent rejection in organ transplant recipients. However, they can also damage sperm production.
- Opioids: Opioids, such as morphine and codeine, can affect sperm production by decreasing testosterone levels. They can also lead to decreased sperm motility and abnormal sperm morphology.
Lifestyle Factors that can impact sperm production
Sperm production and male fertility can be affected by various lifestyle factors including diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use, and exposure to environmental toxins can all reduce the quantity and quality of sperm. Here are some of the ways that lifestyle factors can impact sperm production:
- Diet: A diet that is high in saturated fat, sugar, and processed foods can negatively impact sperm production. On the other hand, a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can improve sperm quality and motility.
- Exercise: Exercise has been shown to improve overall health and reduce stress levels, both of which can have a positive impact on sperm production. However, excessive exercise can lead to hormonal imbalances that can decrease testosterone levels and lead to reduced sperm production.
- Smoking: Smoking can damage sperm cells and decrease sperm count and motility. Smoking also leads to increased oxidative stress, which can damage sperm DNA.
- Alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to hormonal imbalances that can affect sperm production. Alcohol can also damage sperm DNA and reduce sperm motility.
- Drug use: Recreational drug use, such as marijuana or cocaine, can negatively impact sperm production. These drugs can lead to hormonal imbalances and damage to sperm DNA.
- Environmental toxins: Exposure to environmental toxins, such as pesticides, lead, and other heavy metals, can damage sperm cells and reduce sperm count and motility.
With all of the factors that affect men’s sperm production, it is safe to say that men’s infertility is far from a myth. While most of the responsibility is often pushed upon women to address fertility issues that may arise, men have the same level of responsibility to take care of their bodies and go through the process of testing their fertility.
If you believe you or a loved one might be struggling with infertility, reach out to a specialist today. A specialist can help you better understand your fertility journey, and give you clarity on many issues that have been a mystery to you thus far. Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out today. Find answers. Find peace.