Several factors are related to male infertility. First, older age is correlated with low sperm count and less healthy sperm. Other factors that are known to reduce sperm count or create less healthy sperm include drug or alcohol abuse, anabolic steroid use, poor diet, being overweight, smoking, toxin exposure from pesticides and lead, and exposure from endocrine disrupting chemicals. Medical problems or medications that disrupt hormone production can also impact men’s sperm production. In addition cancer treatments (like radiation or chemotherapy) or other surgeries that have required the removal of, or caused permanent damage to the organs involved in sperm production can also cause infertility. Exposure to heat (like taking a hot shower) can also temporarily lower sperm count. Finally, certain genetic conditions and undescended testicles can cause infertility in men.
If you and your partner have not been able to get pregnant after one year of actively trying, you should both see a fertility specialist. Because male infertility is often easier to diagnosis or rule out, the doctor may recommend testing you first. Blood work to test hormone levels, and semen testing to determine the health of your sperm will likely be recommended. The course of treatment will depend on what the diagnosis. Luckily many of the factors that impact sperm health are changeable like improving your diet, limiting your exposure to toxins, not taking a hot shower before you have sex, stopping smoking, etc.
Consider these suggestions if you are a man struggling with infertility:
- See a Specialist: To treat the problem, you first need to find out whether there is a problem. Consult with a doctor who specializes in infertility.
- Confront Your Anxiety: Some men avoid seeing a doctor for fear of the possible diagnosis. Avoidance will only increase anxiety and contribute to more stress in your relationship. The unknown often creates the most anxiety. By knowing if there is a problem, you can then confront the problem.
- Talk to Your Partner About Your Fears: Some men fear their partner will leave them if they are infertile. Others are afraid that they and their partner will disagree on a course of action (for instance deciding to adopt versus using a sperm donor or deciding not to have children). Without knowing where your partner actually stands on these issues, you could be creating a lot of unnecessary additional anxiety for yourself.
- Focus on Your Health: Remember, sperm health is impacted by many factors that are related to overall health. These factors are controllable! Regardless of the diagnosis you will be healthier. Being healthier will also help you to manage the stress related to the infertility process.
- Increase Your Social Support: Many people feel isolated and overwhelmed during the process of diagnosing and treating infertility. Reach out to friends or family members who you believe can be supportive. Consider seeing a therapist for individual therapy or couples counseling. Treating infertility can be a very long process. With more support, you will be better able to manage the stress.