Male Fertility 101

Fertility issues can feel like the loneliest place in the world, but the truth is that they’re extremely common. An estimated 15% of couples experience difficulty conceiving. And among at least one third of those couples, the fertility issues stem from the male partner.

We think it’s high time we open the conversation around fertility to include men, so that male partners feel equipped to navigate any fertility challenges they may encounter. With all the stress and frustration that fertility issues can bring to a couple trying to conceive, the stigma around infertility only serves to compound it.

Here are the top things you need to know around male fertility.

What causes male infertility?

First off, it’s important not to blame yourself or your partner for infertility. These things tend to be somewhat out of our control, and the blame game won’t make things easier. 

There are numerous causes of male infertility and they run the gamut. We’re going to focus on the most common cases:

  • Low sperm count — this is far and away the most common cause. Studies have shown that sperm counts are gradually falling lower and lower. We’re not quite at a stage of crisis, but it is an important population trend to be aware of.
  • Age — it’s a myth that only women are on a biological clock. Age impacts male fertility, as well. Older men carry a higher risk of carrying sperm with DNA damage. This isn’t to say that men of a certain age can no longer have children, but rather it carries more risk and can become more difficult.
  • Diet and lifestyle — in the same way that women prepare for pregnancy by taking supplements, adjusting their nutrition plans, etc., men can also prepare for conception to help avoid potential fertility issues. Studies have shown that smoking, heavy drinking, stress, lack of sleep, and obesity have all been linked to male infertility.

How do you know if you’re infertile?

Infertility is defined as not being able to achieve a pregnancy after at least one year of regular, unprotected sex (or six months if one or both partners are over the age of 35). Of course, you can seek an evaluation at any time. And that’s the fastest and most reliable way to learn more about your body’s fertility. If you’re experiencing infertility, it’s a good idea for both partners to get evaluated.

How is male infertility evaluated?

A urologist or fertility specialist will likely do an analysis of your sperm count. If the counts are low, you’ll most likely do a second test a few weeks later, as sperm counts fluctuate.

In over 20% of cases, the cause of male infertility cannot be identified even after a sperm count analysis. If you fall under one of these cases, it can be frustrating, but there are options, such as: I.V.F. (in vitro fertilization, where an egg is fertilized with sperm and then planted into the uterus) or I.C.S.I. (intracytoplasmic sperm injection, where sperm is injected into an egg and transferred to the womb).

What’s good for your fertility is good for you

It may seem like a lot of work to prepare for conception — eating better, making healthier lifestyle choices, getting adequate sleep, reducing stress. But the good news is that all of these choices contribute to a healthier life. If you’re having trouble conceiving, remember that you’re not alone and there many different ways to address fertility issues. You can only control what’s in your control.