King Henry VIII blamed his difficulty of producing a male heir on a few of his wives, and heads did roll. He probably never realized that the problem could have been him, not his wives, Many of these myths prevail today when it comes to male infertility.
In fact, each year in the United States, nearly 2 million men are diagnosed with infertility. For the most part, infertility is a treatable condition, but many men are unaware of what infertility is and are pretty vested in what infertility isn’t. To truly understand what a diagnosis of infertility means, it’s important to be able to separate fact from fiction. Here are some common myths that could have helped King Henry, and can help you too, understand the many common truths about male infertility.
Infertility Affects only Women
Research shows that male factor infertility exists in approximately 18% of infertility cases. The causes range from low sperm count to high sperm motility. Combined male and female factors are common and contribute to approximately 19% cases.
Only Women Need Supplements
Folic acid can help a mother-to-be maintain fertility and prevent certain birth defects. Folic acid can help men too and is an important supplement in male fertility. Coenzyme Q10 and Vitamin E also increase sperm count and motility. On the contrary, testosterone supplements inhibit natural testosterone production as the pituitary thinks the amount of testosterone being produced is adequate. This drastically decreases sperm counts and fertility potential.
Infertility Equals Sterility
Male infertility means that men are not as fertile as they could be and the condition can often be medically treated. Conversely, sterility means the total absence of sperm production (azoospermia), making pregnancy impossible.
Male Fertility Lasts a Lifetime
Men remain fertile longer than women but fertility does start to decrease around age 35, when testosterone levels create lesser amounts of sperm. Further, older sperm has chromosomal abnormalities that can potentially lead to genetic problems, including autism and schizophrenia, and are up to four times more likely to pass on genetic mutations than mothers.
Frequency Affects Fertility
The body replenishes its sperm supply in about a week. Daily ejaculation may lower sperm count, but shouldn’t affect fertility. Having sex every day for four or five days – needed during ovulating – won’t result in a lower sperm count.
Similarly, abstention doesn’t help quantity or quality. More than 2-3 days between ejaculations can decrease the sperm quality. Intercourse every other day and daily around the time of ovulation is recommended. This keeps sperm quantity adequate and improves chances of success.
Low Sperm Count is Untreatable
A fertility specialist can evaluate and make recommendations for treatment with medications, therapies and proper lifestyle choices. IUI (Intrauterine insemination), IVF (in vitro fertilization), with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) are treatment options to aid conception.
Smoking Doesn’t Affect Male Fertility
There are no health benefits to smoking, especially for male fertility. Smokers have 10-40% lower monthly fecundity (fertility) rates. Even five cigarettes per day can lower fertility rates.
Heat has no Effect on Sperm
Regular, lengthy and extreme heat exposure can damage testes and degrade semen quality. Heat generated from laptops resting on your lap can affect motility and cause DNA damage as can extensive hot tub usage.
Only Hard Drugs Affect Male Fertility
Hard drugs affect fertility and are potentially life-threatening. But prescription drugs, antibiotics, blood pressure medication, exposure to lead and mercury can affect sperm quality and quantity. Frequent marijuana use causes similar problems.
Diet and Male Fertility are Unrelated
High-fat diets decrease sperm count. Conversely, plant-based diets improve fertility and overall health. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are healthy while thick cuts of red meat and refined carbohydrates such as white bread and cookies in excess are unhealthy and can affect sperm count.
Body Weight Does Not Affect Fertility
Extra weight and obesity cause elevated estrogen and low testosterone levels, which decreases sperm count. Overweight males experience decreased libido. Maintaining an optimum Body Mass Index (BMI), regular exercise and balanced diet increase energy, decrease weight, and equalize testosterone and libido levels.
Disease Does Not Affect Male Fertility
Chronic conditions such as diabetes and liver cirrhosis cause abnormal, retrograde male ejaculation from nerve damage. Bladder muscles close during normal ejaculation, preventing the entry of semen. With retrograde ejaculation, the semen enters the bladder.
Healthy Male, Healthy Sperm
Most men think if their overall health is good, so is their sperm. Yet on average, only 14% sperm have a normal shape, size, and motility. This is sufficient for conception as only one sperm is needed to fertilize an ovum and impregnate a woman.
Male Infertility is Genetic
While it can be inherited, genetics is not the only factor. Diagnosis of chronic, serious and malignant disease, injury, repeated infections, immunity issues and even medications are all contributory factors. Lifestyle choices in diet, nutrition, tobacco and drug use, exercise habits, and body weight can all decrease male fertility.
Male Infertility Is Incurable
There are several treatment options available, which rectify or reduce infertility issues such as sperm count, motility or ejaculation problems to improve chances of pregnancy.
Boxers over Briefs
Whether you wear boxers, briefs, or go commando, there is little evidence that your underwear affects fertility. However, it’s never good to wear your underwear too tight; they should feel comfortable and allow for movement.
Lubricants Interfere with Sperm Motility
While many lubricants contain Nonoxynol-9 (a spermicide) and oil-based lubricants may slow motility, not all lubricants prevent fertilization. Specialty lubricants aimed at conception propel sperm to their destination.
It is commonly believed that male infertility comes with age. But often it’s due to hormonal imbalances. These can occur at any age are treatable. If you are struggling with infertility, it’s important to know facts and bust the myths. Dr. Desi Avila will identify and address the causes to increase your chances of conception. Call Ironwood Urology in Phoenix at (480) 961-2323 or go online for an appointment.