A guide to men's health and fertility

Worried about your fertility? Check out our comprehensive guide to everything related to men's health and fertility.

Trying to conceive is an exciting time in every couple's life. However, if you’re struggling with infertility, trying to conceive can instead be stressful and upsetting. We’ve put together this guide to help you understand what male infertility is, what causes it, and how you can improve it. 

What is infertility?

It’s estimated that nearly 1 in 7 heterosexual couples struggle with infertility. This means that you haven’t been able to conceive even though you’ve had frequent, unprotected sex for a year or longer. Male infertility can be caused by low sperm production, abnormal sperm function, or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. 

There are 2 types of infertility

  • Primary infertility: You and your partner have never conceived children together.
  • Secondary infertility: You and your partner have had children together, but are now struggling to conceive.

Both types of infertility are as common as each other and equally as difficult to come to terms with. If you do choose to visit a doctor to discuss your infertility, you’ll be treated the same regardless of whether you’ve been able to conceive before. 

What can cause or contribute to male infertility? 

Over a third of infertility cases in men are unexplained. There can often be no indication of infertility until you realise you and your partner can’t conceive. However, certain factors can impact male fertility, including illness, injuries, chronic health problems, and lifestyle choices. Some of the specific factors that can contribute to male infertility include:

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Alcohol and certain drug use
  • Experiencing trauma to the testicles 
  • Being overweight 
  • Being exposed to industrial chemicals or radiation
  • Overheating of the testicles
  • Certain illnesses, such as tumours or sickle cell disease

Even if you do experience some of the things listed above, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to become infertile. In the same way, you can be infertile without having met any of these factors. Infertility is a common problem that can affect anyone, no matter the circumstances. 

How can men improve their fertility? 

There often tends to be greater attention placed on female fertility, as women are typically the ones to get pregnant. However, when a couple decides to get pregnant, the man should be healthy too. Looking after your health can improve your chances of conception, as well as contribute to the health of your future child. Some things you can do to help improve your fertility are: 

  • Getting enough sleep and exercise 
  • Avoiding excess alcohol consumption, smoking, and drug use
  • Taking vitamins 
  • Wearing loose boxers
  • Ensuring your testicles don’t overheat (i.e. not sitting with a laptop resting on your thighs)

When should I go to the doctor? 

It’s generally recommended that you see a doctor if you’ve been unable to conceive a child after a year of trying. Some of the signs you should look out for that can indicate infertility are:  

  • Erection or ejaculation problems 
  • Low sex drive 
  • Pain or discomfort in the testicle area 
  • A lump or swelling in the testicle area
  • A history of testicle, prostate, or sexual problems

Your doctor will ask you a range of questions, such as:

  • If you’ve ever had any sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • If you have any serious, long-term diseases or conditions 
  • If you’re taking any medication 
  • If you regularly smoke or drink alcohol 
  • If you’ve been stressed recently

Your GP may examine you and carry out some tests from a sample of your semen, which will be able to show whether you’re producing enough healthy sperm. 

You may find it difficult to talk about these issues with your partner present, so making a separate appointment can help ease any anxieties you have on the topic. It’s important to remember that there’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. 

Final thoughts from Kami

Infertility is relatively common, and the sooner you speak to your GP, the closer you may be to improving your chances of getting your partner pregnant. Whilst your doctor may not find a specific reason for your infertility, they may be able to offer treatments to help improve your chances. It can be disheartening to discover that you’re infertile, but remember that there are options available to help you along your journey. 

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