If you and your partner have decided to start a family, your thoughts may have turned to your fertility levels and whether your lifestyle is impacting them.
You may have just begun the journey, or maybe you’ve been trying for a while without success and beginning to wonder if something might be wrong. Sadly, there’s no shortage of old wives’ tales about what does and doesn’t impact fertility (with varying degrees of truth behind them) and it can be hard to separate fact from the fiction.
At Peregian Family Medical Centre, we’ve compiled some information to help you understand fertility.
What exactly is male fertility?
Put simply, a fertile man is able to get his fertile partner pregnant and an infertile man isn’t. Male infertility can be due to a range of causes and is very common. In fact, in cases of infertility (when a woman hasn’t been able to fall pregnant), a male factor is estimated to be present in about 50 per cent of cases and has sole responsibility for the infertility in 30 per cent of cases.
Key causes of male infertility include:
Low sperm count: Low sperm count means that the semen you ejaculate contains fewer sperm than normal. Your sperm count is considered lower than normal if you have fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen.
Abnormal sperm function: Teratospermia, where a high proportion of sperm is abnormally-shaped, can lead to another common cause of male infertility. Having a large number of misshapen sperm isn’t uncommon, but if too many of your sperm have defects which affect their ability to reach the egg, you may experience infertility.
Low testosterone levels: In men, testosterone carries out important body functions, including regulating sex drive and helping the testes make sperm. If testosterone levels drop, so can libido, sperm count and your overall mood.
Erectile dysfunction: It is estimated erectile dysfunction affects about 1 million men in Australia. Also known as impotence, erectile disfunction means not being able to get or keep an erection long enough to ejaculate.
What affects fertility?
There’s a long list of things that can affect a man’s fertility. For example, illnesses, infections and hormone imbalances can all affect fertility levels. Other causes include:
Smoking: Tobacco can reduce sperm count, so quitting is advisable if you’re trying to boost your fertility levels.
Alcohol: Drinking too much can lower testosterone levels, which can reduce sperm production and cause erectile disfunction.
Weight: Being overweight can also reduce the quality of a man's sperm and cause erection problems. It can also wreak havoc with hormone and libido levels.
Stress: Research shows stress can reduce sperm and semen quality, which can have implications for male fertility. High levels of stress can also impact libido.
Tips to optimise male fertility
There’s a number of steps you can take to boost your fertility levels naturally. Regular exercise is important to increase your chances of conceiving. For example, doing just half an hour of exercise three times a week may help boost your sperm count.
Losing weight, cutting back alcohol and quitting smoking may also help improve sperm count and motility.
It probably goes without saying, but having regular sex – particularly during your partner’s fertile window – may also help. Her fertile window are the three days leading up to her ovulation and the day of ovulation itself.
This typically happens about 14 days before her period starts. There are various ways for your partner to help track her ovulation. Speak to our team at Peregian Medical Centre if you’d like to discuss them.
There’s limited research demonstrating any real benefits to fertility supplements. Instead, switching to a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise is your best bet.
What should you do if you suspect you’re infertile?
The first step is to make sure you’ve been trying long enough. As a general benchmark, infertility is categorised as no successful pregnancies in 12 months of regular unprotected sex. If you meet this criteria, your doctor will generally plan a range of tests for both partners. For the male, this may involve a semen analysis, blood tests and imaging. You and your partner may then be referred to specialists for further investigations or treatments.
If you’re experiencing infertility, it’s worth making an appointment to discuss your options with a medical professional. Our team at Peregian Family Medical Centre are here to work with you on your journey to pregnancy – and beyond.
To make an appointment head to our website, or phone Peregian Family Medical Centre on 07 5471 2100.