One out of every eight couples will have trouble conceiving. About one-third of the time, it turns out that male factor infertility is the problem. If you and your partner are having difficulty conceiving, you may need to have a semen analysis to examine the overall health of your sperm. If your semen analysis results are not normal, you will likely need to see a urologist who specializes in male fertility.
While working with a urologist, you may find yourself doing some research on your own. As such, you are likely to bump into some common myths about male factor infertility. These myths may cause some anxiety when you hear what others are saying about habits that might hurt your chances. In this article, we share five myths and truths about male factor infertility and the healthy habits that can help.
Myth #1: Marijuana use causes male factor infertility.
Truth: It’s probably best to cut back on marijuana use while trying to conceive.
The scientific journal Fertility and Sterility examined findings from men and women in the National Survey of Family Growth. These researchers found that neither marijuana use nor the frequency of use delayed the time it took couples to conceive. Another article examined the limited information available about the clinical effects of marijuana on male infertility. This study found that marijuana use had a negative impact on male reproductive health.
According to Oregon Reproductive Medicine marijuana use has been shown to cause alterations in semen analysis. To cut down or stop using marijuana can be beneficial for fertility. Shady Grove Fertility recommends stopping marijuana use when trying to conceive due to studies showing decreased sperm counts.
Myth #2: Tighty whities keep testicles too warm, switch to boxers to keep them cool.
Truth: There’s no evidence to support boxers over briefs, but for optimal fertility, keep your testicles cool.
A study of 500 couples found that choosing boxers over briefs did not improve fertility. For optimal sperm production, the testicles should be cooler than the rest of the body. Studies confirm that heat around the area of the testicles is bad for fertility. Although underwear may not significantly impact testicular temperature, you should avoid prolonged exposure to heat from specific activities. Long, hot baths, laptop computer use, a high-temperature work environment, and hot tubs may make the testicles too warm.
Myth #3: Cycling will cause male factor infertility.
Truth: It may be best to give up hours-long, intense, frequent bike rides when trying to conceive.
Avid, intense, endurance cycling can be troublesome for sperm morphology, meaning the size and shape of sperm. A study in Fertility and Sterility found that bicycling for 5 hours or more a week led to decreases in total motile sperm and lower sperm concentration. That being said, the effects of intense cycling habits may not be permanent. Periods of rest with no cycling may improve sperm parameters. The research is inconsistent, though, since a study of over 5,000 male cyclists found no association between cycling time and infertility. Shorter, less intense bike rides a few times a week should not hurt your fertility chances.
Myth #4: Male fertility doesn’t decline with age.
Truth: Male fertility does decrease with age – although not as much as in women.
A study of over 5,000 men found a decline in the likelihood of pregnancy due to changes in semen parameters in men over 34 years old. With advancing age, the decrease in the possibility of pregnancy was more significant. Another study found a fivefold increase in time to pregnancy for men over 45 years old. For men who are trying but have not been able to conceive naturally, see a urologist for a semen analysis.
Myth #5: Men cannot benefit from supplements to improve fertility.
Truth: Studies show that supplements can enhance male fertility.
Vitamins C and E
Vitamins C and E are well known as essential antioxidants. Studies show that vitamin C supplementation improves sperm count, motility, and morphology. Also, men with low fertilization rates benefitted significantly by taking vitamin E supplements for three months. Infertile men taking vitamin E supplements showed improved sperm motility and increased pregnancy rates versus placebo.
Selenium is a trace mineral that also functions as an antioxidant. Supplementing with selenium may lead to increased sperm motility, and a combination of vitamin E and selenium has been shown to decrease damage from free radicals and improve sperm motility in infertile men.
Lycopene is a carotenoid (plant pigment) and potent antioxidant found in tomatoes, and you can see this phytonutrient in high levels in the male testes. Research has shown that lycopene supplementation improves sperm parameters in infertile men.
L-carnitine is an amino acid derivative produced naturally in the body. You can get it from some foods and supplements. L-carnitine transports fat for your body to use for energy and it also has antioxidant properties. L-carnitine supplies energy for the sperm and thereby increases sperm motility.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that may play a role in testosterone metabolism, sperm formation, and cell motility. Zinc supplementation has been shown to increase testosterone levels, sperm motility, and sperm count.
Folic acid (folate)
Folic acid (folate) is a B-vitamin that is critical for DNA synthesis. Low levels of folic acid may lead to decreased sperm count and motility. Studies show the combination of folic acid and zinc resulted in a 74% increase in total normal sperm count in subfertile men.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is essential for cellular energy production. CoQ10 may be beneficial for male fertility. Studies have shown that at least six months of CoQ10 supplementation improves sperm motility in infertile men. In another study, CoQ10 increased sperm density, motility, and morphology.
Lifestyle Habits That Can Help Your Fertility
Participating in moderate physical activity at least three days a week for 60 minutes may improve your fertility. Research shows that this type of regular exercise (brisk walking, doubles tennis, etc.) may improve sperm morphology parameters, compared to men who participated in more vigorous, frequent exercise.
Choose plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods contain many nutrients that can be beneficial for sperm function and male fertility. Limit sweets and sugar-sweetened drinks since this study showed that a diet high in sugar might lead to lower sperm count.
To improve your fertility, eat more fruits and vegetables, and decrease your intake of sugar-sweetened drinks and sugary foods. Regularly participate in moderate exercise. If you’re an avid cycler, limit intense, frequent cycling while trying to conceive. Stay away from activities that may overheat your testicles such as hot tubs and using a computer on your lap. If you’ve had trouble conceiving, see a urologist for a semen analysis.
Consider supplementation with vitamins C, E, folic acid (folate), zinc, selenium, lycopene, CoQ10, and L-carnitine to provide optimal nutritional support for your sperm.
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