Sexuality in Conversation

Why Aren't More Men Talking About Infertility?

While mainstream media would lead you to believe that fertility is solely a women’s issue, you’d be wrong. One in six couples will experience difficulty conceiving, and 30 percent of the time, male infertility is the primary cause. Chances are you know many ways not to become pregnant, but conceiving a child requires much more than condomless sex. 

Prime factors like testosterone levels and sperm count are well known to be integral in fertility concerns, but understanding how to keep them at their optimum level can be a bit tricky. Chances are you didn’t learn this information during your health class. So, if child creation is on your life’s to-do list, there are some things to consider.

You’re probably familiar with the sensation of your scrotum drawing closer to your body when it’s cold and relaxing down to hang when it’s hot. While this phenomenon can be a useful indicator for determining the ambient temperature, there is actually a purpose to the movement. In order for sperm to be produced, the testicles need to be around two degrees cooler than your body temperature. If conditions remain too warm for too long, you can expect a reduction in the number and the quality of sperm. Be mindful of the time you spend in hot baths, hot tubs and saunas. Even a laptop on the lap can cause enough heat to impact your sperm production.

Research has revealed that men who have a ‘normal’ BMI, or body mass index, have the highest sperm count. Being overweight has been shown to impact fertility with fat cells influencing hormone levels. As a man’s BMI increases, so does the amount of estradiol (the primary female sex hormone). Interesting to note that having a BMI below ‘normal’ can affect fertility as well. This is due to hormonal imbalances and possible malnutrition. The body does not think it’s a good time to be reproducing.
When pregnancy isn’t occurring as fast as you’d like, the advice from the general population is to have more sex. While this may sound fun, it isn’t the answer to increase your fertility chances.
Often times when pregnancy isn’t occurring as fast as you’d like, the advice from the general population is to have more sex. While this may sound fun (or more stress inducing), it isn’t the answer to increase your fertility chances. Ovulation is the gatekeeper for determining pregnancy. You might have a great sperm count and excellent ejaculatory volume, but if there is no egg, it’s just great practice. This is where you need to get on the same page as your partner. There are many apps available to chart their fertility window. Other indicators like basal body temperature and cervical mucous can be used as indicators for the optimum time to have sex. Sperm can live 48 to 72 hours inside of a woman, so there is some leeway for the timing.

Another factor to consider is what kind of lubricant you are using during sex. The vagina is already an acidic environment for your sperm, in addition to swimming through the cervical mucous. Make sure your lubricant is a friend to your sperm rather than a detriment. Some ingredients found in common lubes can impact sperm motility as well as the pH. Look for a lubricant specifically for conception, it will be pH-balanced and make the journey to the egg easier.

Last, but not least, is stress. “If you’re stressed about conception (or anything else in your life), it can adversely affect fertility. One study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that men who reported two or more stressful life events in the past 12 months had lower sperm motility and quality than those with lower reports of stressful life events. This difference remained even after accounting for other factors like age and health issues,” says Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, host of the “Sex With Dr. Jess” podcast. With results like that, it’s so important not to discount the impact that stress plays in your fertility.

Infertility is a topic that is often spoken of in secret and when broached, many myths and misconceptions make their way into the conversation. If reproduction is in your future, it’s best that you do your research and have all of the facts at hand before you start on the journey.