Too often when trying to conceive, the emphasis (and blame) is placed on the woman. We worry if our cycles are too long, if we’re timing intercourse properly and if we should be eating a plant-based diet.
But that’s missing out on 50% of the equation. There are many things that can harm a male’s fertility.
The good news? Many of these that can be overcome with simple lifestyle adjustments that aid the process.
There is a global decline in sperm quality attributed to lifestyle factors. Even if a man isn’t considered de facto infertile, couples should be aware that there are things that harm a male’s fertility. Fertility can be an indicator of overall health, so it’s best to consider the solutions as long-term. Most men desperately want to help the fertility process, so here are ten things to consider.
1. Sitting too Much
Our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are always under scrutiny, but studies have shown that sitting too much is compromising sperm counts and concentrations even in otherwise healthy men. For men that work office jobs, consider an adjustable standing desk or getting up for a stretch at regular intervals. Perhaps stop trying to get the closest parking spot to the store or office and take the stairs when provided the option.
Overheating down under can compromise sperm production, but don’t go “manspreading” just yet. Many things can be the culprit, including the regular use of saunas or hot tubs, briefs or tight-fitting underwear or clothing, working with a laptop directly on the lap. Testicles are outside of the body for a reason, and they know how to regulate their temperature well. Just avoid overdoing anything that’s causing a little too much heat.
3. Exposure to environmental toxins
Most toxins are tough to avoid in today’s world because they’re nearly invisible and, therefore, easy to disregard. Most environmental toxins affect both male and female fertility, so consider what you are regularly exposed to at home and in the workplace. A good place to start is considering pesticide/ herbicide-free fruits and vegetables and BPA-free household plastics and limiting regular exposure to endocrine-disruptors such as certain cleaning products, air fresheners, and weed-killers like Glyphosate.
4. Alcohol consumption
Many people are familiar with the effects of alcohol on sexual function for a night, but daily alcohol consumption is associated with progressive testicular damage, decreased semen quality, and chronic erectile dysfunction (ED). It’s worth it to consider reducing alcohol consumption, and if any sexual function issues don’t improve, you can always reach for an ED medication like Sildenafil that will help enhance blood flow.
Whether it’s tobacco or the ever-increasingly legal marijuana, regular smoking is strongly linked to lower sperm concentrations and counts. Smoking has also been linked with lower overall testosterone levels and a myriad of other adverse health outcomes. The good news is that today smoking cessation medications and support groups are more accessible than ever.
6. Experiencing a varicocele
A varicocele is basically like a varicose vein on the testicle, which drains blood away from it. They are a common culprit of low sperm production and quality. Varicoceles typically develop in puberty and don’t go away on their own, but they are easily reversible with a quick outpatient surgery. Talk with a doctor if you think treatment may be for you.
7. Certain prolonged activities
Although this sounds vague, anything that could cause repeated low-level trauma to the male sexual organ is worth looking into. For example, an intense cycling routine or regular horseback riding have been correlated with decreased fertility, so make sure seats and saddles are well-adjusted and be prudent about repetition and duration of these activities.
While being told that stress lowers testosterone levels is enough to cause more stress, one study found that occupational stress can affect fertility more than any other type. Focusing on how to create a better work-life balance and set boundaries is a great place to start. A meditation practice or a nighttime routine that focuses on enhancing sleep quality are other simple steps that can have dramatic effects.
9. Poor diet
Proper nutrition plays a vital role in semen quality. A well-balanced diet rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables, and lower in red and processed meat and refined grains can do wonders for fertility and overall health. A busy lifestyle can make proper dietary choices inconvenient, but there are a multitude of health-focused meal delivery services that can help inspire a more wholesome diet.
10. Hormonal imbalances
Hormonal imbalances affect men too! They are often linked to stress and may be improved by incorporating some of the lifestyle changes suggested above. But some symptoms are fatigue, low libido, hair loss, depression, weight gain, and mood swings. Talk to a doctor about getting hormones tested if you think this could be affecting your life, relationships, and fertility.
The current fertility culture too often places the blame on the woman when problems first arise. Fertility should be considered equally in a partnership, especially if the direct source of infertility is unknown. Small lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on not only fertility but overall health and satisfaction.