Fertility is defined as the ability to conceive or reproduce and infertility is the opposite thereof. There are several factors and stressors that can have an influence on fertility in men, some of these include obesity, smoking, drugs for recreational use, malformed sperm, tumours and also alcohol.
Alcohol is described by the World Health Organisation as a psychoactive substance with dependence-producing properties that has been used widely across different cultures for centuries. Inappropriate use or misuse of alcohol has several negative effects on the overall health of the human body as well as an enormous impact on social and economic livelihoods.
How Does Alcohol Work in The Brain?
Alcohol has a vast effect on different areas in the brain controlling balance, speech, memory and judgment and alcohol prevents these areas from performing their normal function. This results in a high likelihood of injuries or other negative outcomes. Alcohol consumption can cause depression in the Central Nervous System (CNS) by enhancing an inhibitory neurotransmitter, named GABA. This effect will cause an inattentive and dull state of mind with decreased capability of logical thinking.
What is Moderate Alcohol Consumption?
Moderate alcohol consumption is usually described as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men where a drink is defined as 355 millilitres of beer, 148 millilitres of wine, or 44 millilitres of distilled spirits. On the other hand, heavy drinking in persons over the age of 65 is described as more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks per week.
In persons under the age of 65, heavy drinking is classified as more than four drinks on any day or more than fourteen drinks per week. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in less than 2 hours for women and five or more in less than two hours for men.
The Effect of Alcohol on Male Fertility?
Alcohol can have a huge impact on male fertility and can cause the following in men trying to conceive :
- Reduced Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) release, the hormone that is responsible for the stimulation of spermatogenesis. hCG plays a crucial role in spermatogenesis and helps to maintain a high level of testosterone in the testis.
- Testicular atrophy; is a term used to describe the gradual decline in effectiveness and size of the testicles due to underuse or neglect.
- Difficulties in inducing or maintaining an erection.
- A decrease in libido.
- Alcohol also increases oxidative stress resulting in a reduction of the body’s antioxidant capacity that can influence semen parameters causing a decrease in semen quality.
- Alcohol can also have an effect on gene transcription and genetic regulation causing altered expression of the RNA in sperm function.
Although it is evident that heavy alcohol consumption can cause infertility in men, a study has shown that Azoospermia, the absence of sperm in the semen, caused by heavy alcohol consumption, can be reversed over an average period of 6-12 months by abstaining from alcohol. This study has shown that semen parameters improved over time.
Preventing Male Infertility
There are multiple ways that men can attempt to prevent infertility, including making healthier lifestyle choices that consist of regular exercise, a healthy diet and limited alcohol. Discover more methods to increase the chances of fertility here.
Decreased Alcohol Consumption
Male fertility tends to peak between the ages of 30 to 35 years. By abstaining from alcohol or consuming alcohol moderately, especially in a male's fertility years, can help to prevent male infertility from occurring down the road.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Studies have shown that maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and sustaining a healthy and balanced diet can increase semen parameters and result in increased semen quality.
Regular doctor appointments can prevent the risk of experiencing male infertility at a young age. It is recommended that men attend these appointments for the healthcare professional to pick up any fertility problems, assess what is causing it and advise on how to prevent it or alternatively, treat it.
Clothing and Lubricants
There have been various opinions and studies conducted on the wearing of tight-fitting underwear versus loose-fitting underwear and how it can affect male reproductive health. Studies have shown that sperm parameters tend to drop in men who wear tight-fitting underwear. The good news is that it is reversible just by switching to more loose-fitting underwear options, which can result in the increase of semen quality back to its normal stage.
Oddly enough, there is evidence that certain lubricants can negatively affect sperm function by reducing sperm motility when semen has been in contact with the lubricant for over 30 minutes. Some evidence also shows that non-commercial products used as lubricants like olive oil, can also negatively affect the function of sperm.
Testing Male Fertility
Usually, when a male consults their doctor regarding their concern about their fertility, the doctor will run a few tests to determine what the patient’s fertility rate is at. Usually, the first test that is conducted is a physical examination where the vitals are checked as well as the reproductive organs.
Next up will be to analyse a sample of the semen to test and see if there are any sperm abnormalities present. A blood sample may also be taken to test a male’s hormone levels to determine if the level of Testosterone or Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is causing any reproductive issues.
Scans, such as an ultrasound may be performed to determine if there are any blockages within the reproductive tract. When the results are inconclusive as to what is causing the possible infertility, the last option would be to do a biopsy in order to determine the possible cause of infertility.