Male Infertility: Facts vs. Myths

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Male infertility is a topic that is becoming more prevalent in society. It is also much easier to be persuaded by some of the myths discussed on the internet. By debunking myths regarding male fertility, patients and men as well as women can have a clear view of what male infertility really is, how it is affected and how to prevent or treat it.

 

Facts About Male Infertility

Male Fertility Decreases With Age

The fact that male fertility decreases as men age, is undeniable. This is just the way the human body works. As men get older and pass their reproductive years, their semen parameters and the quality of their sperm start to decline which can eventually lead to infertility

 

Infertility Rates are Equal Between Men and Women

Studies have shown that men have an equal chance of being infertile as women. In some cases, it may only be the man or the woman, while in other cases it can be both attributing to the problem of conceiving. When a couple is struggling to conceive and the cause is unknown, is less likely to occur than identifying who may attribute to being infertile.

 

Stress Can Decrease Fertility

Studies have shown that stressful events can impact a male’s fertility by causing a decrease in sperm motility and structure, leading to fertility problems. Stress can affect the release of sexual hormones, disrupting the spermatogenesis process and leading to a reduced production of sperm. When receptors in the male reproductive system are exposed to high levels of glucocorticoid, caused by stress, it can induce apoptosis of certain reproductive cells.

 

Structural Issues in The Reproductive System Can Decrease Fertility

Structural problems in the reproductive tract of a man can be caused by previous surgeries or infections that may cause a blockage in the urethra, inhibiting the possibility that semen can be released via ejaculation.

 

 

Hormonal Disturbances Can Cause Fertility Problems

Male fertility is dependent on the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis. This axis is responsible for producing and secreting hormones that result in the optimal release of testosterone which can result in healthy sperm parameters. When there is an imbalance or a problem in this axis, it can affect the amount of testosterone released, it can inhibit the spermatogenesis process and cause a decline in sperm count and sperm parameters.

 

 

Myths About Male Infertility

 

Sperm and Semen are The Same

Sperm and semen are not the same. Semen can be seen as the vehicle that is used to transport the sperm and the sperm is the passenger. The sperm won’t be able to reach a female’s egg to inseminate it, without the presence of the semen. Optimal semen and sperm parameters play a crucial role in a male’s fertility.

 

Overall Health Does Not Affect a Male’s Fertility

Overall health can indeed affect a male’s fertility. Choosing to lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle can contribute to a male's fertility. Consuming vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants, such as kale and spinach, can reduce oxidative stress in the body leading to optimal spermatogenesis. Maintaining an active lifestyle can boost the release of testosterone causing an increase in sperm count.

Poor overall health can lead to diabetes which affects the sperm’s DNA, can cause erectile dysfunction and disrupt the spermatogenesis process. Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can cause a decline in a man’s fertility. Consuming alcohol in moderate amounts and abstaining from nicotine products can return a male’s fertility to an optimal level.

 

The Amount of Sperm is The Only Factor Affecting Male Fertility

Although sperm count is an important parameter for male fertility, it is not the only factor that can be considered when looking at a male’s fertility. When a male’s fertility is tested doctors look at several parameters such as the semen volume, the motility and structure of the sperm, the pH level of the semen and any sign of infection. If some of these parameters are not functioning at an optimal level, it can decrease a male’s fertility.

 

A Male With Erectile Dysfunction Will Never Be Able To Conceive

This is a myth as there are options such as extracting sperm from the testicle tissue and preserving it for insemination in the future. The sperm can even be used for IVF insemination. Tests can be done to see if a male has any viable sperm left to freeze. Erectile dysfunction can also be treated with certain medications, allowing a male the ability to exercise his normal sexual activities.

 

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Can’t Lead to Infertility

STIs can actually have a huge impact on male fertility, especially if it is left untreated. The STI can cause damage to a male’s reproductive organs, causing problems with his fertility. Preventing an STI is better than treating it. 

The best way to prevent getting an STI is to use condoms when having sexual intercourse with a partner who has an STI. Also, note that a condom might only prevent the transmission of certain STIs and not all of them. Other STIs can be prevented by getting vaccinated against HPV and Hepatitis B. If a patient does contract an STI, some of them can be treated with a course of antibiotics, while others, like HIV, can not be cured by medication, but it will only slow down the progression of the disease.

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