Male infertility is most commonly due to problems with sperm; either quantity, motility, or size and shape can impacts one’s ability to conceive. One of the most common causes of male infertility is a varicocele, which is found in 40 percent of infertile men. A varicocele is a group of dilated veins in the scrotom. For most men they don’t cause any issues and thus require no intervention.
Signs of Male Infertility
• Inability to conceive a child
• Problems with sexual function (difficulty with ejaculation, low libido, erectile dysfunction)
• Swelling or lump in one or both testicles
• Recurrent respiratory infections
• Decreased facial or body hair or other signs of hormonal abnormality
• Low sperm count (total sperm count less than 39 million per ejaculate)
Semen analysis is a critical step in the work-up of an infertile couple. Semen needs to be collected at least three months following any stressful events or febrile illnesses, as a fever can impair sperm production for up to three months. These samples will be analyzed for several parameters that affect fertility, such as semen volume, sperm concentration, shape and size. The results of this analysis will greatly help narrow the possible causes.
Many chronic conditions can also impact a man’s fertility. For instance, diabetes, which affects more than 25 million Americans, can result in abnormal ejaculation. Poor sugar regulation can result in nerve damage including those which are responsible for coordinating ejaculation. Liver cirrhosis can also impact fertility, as the condition is often associated with hormonal imbalances that can interfere with sperm production.
Additionally, drugs and environmental exposures can interfere with viable sperm production. Although it is well known, that drugs like alcohol, marijuana, heroin and cocaine can all impact the quality and quantity of sperm, even some prescription drugs can interfere with normal production. Antibiotics, antacids, antidepressants, gout, and blood pressure medications can also impact fertility. Similarly, exposure to heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, influence its production.
Risk Factors for Male Infertility
• Varicocele (most common cause)
• Made up of enlarged veins in scrotum on one or both sides
• Veins make inside of scrotum warmer and can reduce sperm production
• Low sperm production
• Physical problems with testicles (e.g., undescended testicle)
• Blockages in the ducts that carry sperm
• Hormone problems
• History of high fevers or mumps
• Genetic disorders
• Lifestyle or environmental factors
• Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, abuse of illegal drugs, emotional stress, obesity and age
• Fertility gradually decreases in men older than 35
Tips for Boosting Male Fertility
1. Visit a Urologist. In order to get your partner pregnant, you must be able to produce healthy sperm, which is produced in the testicles. Checking for male infertility is important because it could mean other serious health conditions too, such as a varicocele, infection, hormone imbalance, or testicular cancer. Make sure you talk to your doctor about checking for any of the other health conditions so that you can determine what else might be causing male infertility. There are tests that can be done to confirm fertility problems. Some of the options for treatment include medication, surgery, or assisted reproductive technologies. If semen analysis results are normal, there are natural ways to increase chances of getting a woman pregnant.
2. Try herbs. Studies have shown that some herbs can help increase sperm production such as American ginseng, rosemary, green tea, turmeric, resveratrol, and saw palmetto.
3. Increase the amount of amino acids you get. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which are essential for making healthy sperm. L-arginine and L-carnitine may be able to reverse male infertility, but don’t take them without the supervision of a doctor. You may also find these amino acids in food sources that contain lots of protein.
4. Avoid smoking cigarettes and marijuana. They increase stress on your body which can damage sperm.
5. Stay well rested to avoid stress. If you are often feeling stressed out and aren’t getting enough sleep, the production of healthy sperm can suffer. Find time and ways to relax and make sure you get enough sleep (at least 7-8 hours a night).
6. Eat Brazil nuts, walnuts, and almonds. These nuts are rich in selenium, zinc, and copper which help sperm count.
7. Avoid eating processed food and fast food. They cause inflammation which can affect fertility. Your body doesn’t know the difference between when it’s eating a whole food or processed food and uses stored nutrients to process what it consumes. When you eat processed food, it takes away the healthy nutrients that could be used to make sperm. Aim to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods with low glycemic index values. Cut down on sugar and salt too.
8. Eat pomegranate. Pomegranate are a natural aromatase inhibitor, which prevents testosterone from being converted into estrogen.
9. Go commando, or at least wear loose undies. Wearing tight underwear can decrease circulation in your testicles which can affect sperm production. Don’t wear tight pants either.
10. Be physically active. Being physically active boosts testosterone which helps produce sperm. Make sure to exercise in moderation. Over-exercising can deplete vitamins and stored hormones that are essential to make healthy sperm. Be careful when biking as it can put excessive pressure on the testicles.