By Lisa Pecos
We tend to think of infertility as a women’s issue, but both men and women contribute to infertility. What may be more surprising is that the causes of male infertility aren’t always medical, but can be due to their lifestyle choices.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the male partner is the sole or contributing cause of infertility.
Male infertility is often caused by medical conditions, including:
- Infection, such as gonorrhea
- Ejaculation issues, such as retrograde ejaculation
- Varicoceles, which affects the veins of the penis
- Antibodies that attack the sperm
- Hormone imbalances
- Tubal or testicular deformities or defects
- Tumors, which can be malignant or benign
Lifestyle and Environmental Causes of Male Infertility
In some cases, a man’s fertility can be impaired because of environmental or lifestyle factors. Being exposed to certain chemicals and toxins for extended periods, such as pesticides and painting materials, can cause low sperm counts. Exposure to radiation from X-rays and other sources can also interfere with sperm production.
A surprising cause of male low sperm count is overheating of the testicles. If your partner sits for long periods of time, such as while working on a computer or laptop, this can cause enough of a rise in the temperature of his scrotum to lower his sperm count. And with boxer briefs and skinny jeans being all the rage, it’s worth mentioning that wearing tight clothing can also up the temperature in his scrotum enough to reduce his sperm production.
Other lifestyle causes that may interfere with your plans to conceive include:
- Drinking alcohol. Alcohol can impact fertility in a few ways, starting with lower testosterone levels and sperm production. Excessive drinking can also cause liver disease, which can impair fertility. And, even just a couple of drinks can make it hard for him to get an erection and have sex (erectile dysfunction).
- Drug use. Using illicit drugs, such as cocaine or marijuana may temporarily affect a man’s sperm count. Men using anabolic steroids are at an especially high risk of fertility issues because these drugs can shrink the testicles and decrease sperm production.
- Smoking. Studies have found that smoking decreases sperm density, lowers sperm counts, and even lowers the volume of semen. For those undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF), smoking lowers the success rate. And, women exposed to second-hand smoke are also less likely to be able to conceive.
- Being overweight. Excess weight can impact his fertility in several ways, from raising his risk of chronic disease, such as diabetes and heart disease, to causing hormonal imbalances. A study has found that obesity can also affect sperm directly, changing its function and composition.
- Stress. Prolonged stress can interfere with his ability to produce healthy sperm. Stress has been found to lower the quality and the amount of sperm. This can be stressful life events, stress at home or in relationships, and even the stress of infertility.
If you’re having trouble conceiving, a fertility specialist can help rule out any medical conditions that may contribute to infertility. If lifestyle factors are affecting his fertility, making healthy lifestyle changes may improve his fertility.