5 male fertility myths busted
Which of these did you know to be false?
What is infertility?
Infertility is defined as a couple’s inability to conceive after twelve months of unprotected sex if less than 35 years of age, or inability to conceive after six months if older than 35 years of age. According to the Fertility Society of Australia and New Zealand, one in six couples in Australia experience infertility. However, it is important that every couple who tries to conceive understands the importance of working together to achieve a healthy pregnancy and that both male and female fertility can influence pregnancy outcomes.
Debunking some of the myths surrounding male fertility can clear up misconceptions and help couples focus on improving their health and the health of their future children.
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Myth #1: Infertility is rarely a man’s issue
When we look at infertility statistics, 30 percent is attributed to males, 30 percent to female and the remaining 40 percent is due to combined factors. As reported in Australian Family Physician, fifty percent of infertility cases in Australia are linked to male fertility issues. Research shows that male infertility is normally defined as a problem with either sperm production or sperm transport. Oxidative stress — an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body that can lead to cell damage — is a major contributor to male infertility.
Many lifestyle factors can contribute to oxidative stress and affect male fertility, including obesity, smoking, recreational drug use, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and stress.
Stress contributes to infertility. Source: iStock.
Myth #2: A man’s age doesn’t matter
New research highlights that men are no longer as fertile as they age. Whilst they can produce sperm well into their golden years, the quality of sperm has been shown to decline. Increasing male age is linked to an increase in conception time and miscarriage rates. As men age, they experience longer exposure to environmental toxins, stress or medical conditions that may increase oxidative damage to sperm. In addition, testosterone decreases gradually as men age and may contribute to a decline in sexual function. Talking to a healthcare professional can help identify contributing factors and what support is required.
Myth #3: A man would know if he was infertile
In most cases, there are no obvious signs of male infertility. Intercourse, erections, and ejaculation all usually happen without any problems. The quantity and appearance of semen also looks normal to the naked eye. Medical tests by a healthcare professional are needed to determine if a man is infertile.
Not all male fertility problems can be seen. Source: iStock.
Myth #4: A man’s job can’t affect his fertility
On average, it takes 72 to 76 days for sperm to develop, mature, be stored and ejaculated. Therefore, a man’s health 2 to 3 months before conception can significantly affect the health of his sperm. As sperm are vulnerable to oxidative damage from environmental factors, men need to be aware of environmental hazards at work. Compounds shown to affect sperm health negatively may include pesticides such as organophosphates, plastics such as phthalates and BPA, and heavy metals such as cadmium and lead. Occupations that involve exposure to electromagnetic radiation, heat and mechanical vibrations (e.g., from driving) may also affect male fertility. Protecting health and fertility by following occupational health and safety guidelines and wearing necessary protective clothing will also help reduce exposure to workplace hazards.
Myth# 5: There’s nothing a man can do to improve their fertility
There are a number of things that a man can do to improve his fertility. For example, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight. Ubiquinol — an antioxidant — has been shown to improve sperm health parameters by potentially reducing oxidative stress.
A clinical trial of 228 infertile men taking ubiquinol (200mg) daily for 26 weeks showed improved sperm health overall – increased sperm count, improved morphology (shape of sperm) and improved motility (movement of sperm).
A further study of 60 infertile men showed ubiquinol (150mg) daily for six months significantly improved sperm count and motility. Ubiquinol may be beneficial in supporting sperm production and sperm motility, contributing to improved male fertility. Speak to a healthcare professional for further advice on ubiquinol and lifestyle interventions that support health and fertility.
Fertility is something couples work towards together. If you and your partner have been trying to conceive without success, you should both speak to a healthcare professional.
Leah is an experienced and respected clinician who specialises in fertility, pregnancy and reproductive health for men and women. Her primary passion is her clinical practice where she is inspired and humbled by her patients. Leah has completed extensive advanced training and is a university lecturer, keynote speaker, author and educator to her peers. She is currently completing her PhD through the School of Women’s and Children’s Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales and is the author of Clinical Naturopathic Medicine and Advanced Clinical Natural Medicine. https://naturalhealthfertility.com/