One out of every eight couples will have trouble conceiving. And about one-third of the time, it’s an issue with male fertility. 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 typical, you may need to visit 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 fertility. Set the record straight with five myths and truths about male fertility and find out how you can best support your dream of a growing family.
Myth #1: Marijuana use causes male fertility issues.
Fact: Although the evidence is mixed, it’s probably best to cut back on marijuana use while trying to conceive.
The research surrounding marijuana use and fertility is mixed. One study found that neither marijuana use nor the frequency of use delayed the time it took couples to conceive. However, some research suggests that marijuana use may affect semen quality, including sperm count, shape, and motility.
More research is needed to further determine the connection between sperm health and marijuana use, but most experts recommend avoiding marijuana when trying to conceive to support optimal fertility.
Myth #2: Tighty whities keep testicles too warm. Switch to boxers to keep them cool.
Fact: 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. Your body keeps your testicles about two degrees cooler than the rest of the body, maintaining an optimal environment for healthy sperm production. An increase in temperature in the scrotal area, however, can have a negative effect on fertility.
Although underwear may not significantly impact testicular temperature, it’s best to 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 fertility issues.
Fact: Cycling is a great form of physical activity, and you can usually still enjoy it in moderation.
Earlier research suggests that cycling more than five hours per week may affect sperm count and motility. However, a larger, more recent study found no association between fertility issues and cycling up to 8.5 hours per week.
Cycling is still an excellent form of physical activity, and regular exercise can help support sperm quality. So, if you enjoy cycling as part of your exercise routine, you may not need to stop. But, if you’re an avid, intense cyclist and are having trouble conceiving, you may consider cutting back on your bike rides.
Myth #4: Male fertility doesn’t decline with age.
Fact: Male fertility does decrease with age – although not as much as in women.
Women are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have, and egg quality naturally declines as women age. So, age is one of the strongest predictors of female fertility.
It’s a little different for men – they can produce sperm their entire lives. Although age has a less dramatic effect on male fertility, it can still take a toll on sperm health and sexual function. Research suggests that advanced age may affect sperm motility and morphology (the shape of sperm). Studies also indicate that the time it takes to conceive increases with paternal age.
If you’ve been trying but haven’t been able to conceive naturally, you may consider visiting a urologist for a semen analysis.
Myth #5: Lifestyle changes have no effect on male fertility.
Fact: Studies show that making lifestyle changes can support male fertility.
Healthy lifestyle habits like diet and exercise can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, which may help support healthy hormone levels and overall fertility. But the additional benefits of a balanced diet and regular physical activity extend far beyond the number on the scale.
Research suggests that moderate physical activity may support healthy semen quality and male fertility. But it’s important to stay consistent with your exercise routine while trying to conceive – one study found that sperm quality dropped to baseline about one week after stopping the exercise program. Find an activity you enjoy and try to participate in moderate-intensity exercise at least 3 times per week.
Focus on a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods provide a variety of nutrients that help support sperm quality and male fertility. Do your best to limit sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages – research suggests that these may affect sperm motility.
There are plenty of ways you can help support your sperm quality and fertility in your day-to-day life. And now that you’ve sorted fertility myth from fact, you’re equipped and ready to take your fertility into your own hands. But if you continue to have trouble conceiving naturally, consider discussing with your healthcare provider to find out if you could benefit from a semen analysis.
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