Get the facts straight about male fertility
For couples trying to get pregnant, both partners can have issues which may affect their ability to have a baby. About one third of factors preventing couples from conceiving are due to male fertility issues and one third due to female issues. Sometimes both partners have a fertility problem.
In many cases, simple changes to the way a person or couple lives can be all that is needed to improve their chance of having a baby. However, with all the competing advice available it is not always easy to identify the right steps to increase your chances of becoming a parent. To make it easier, here’s a guide to what’s true and what’s not about male fertility:
It doesn’t matter if a man is overweight when he’s trying to become a father – MYTH
Being overweight can reduce a man’s fertility. Overweight men, but particularly those who are very overweight or obese (have a BMI higher than 30) have worse sperm quality than men of healthy weight. Being overweight can reduce male fertility by lowering testosterone levels and increasing the risk of erectile dysfunction. But it’s worth knowing that even small amounts of weight loss can help.
If the man smokes, it won’t affect a couple’s chance of getting pregnant – MYTH
Smoking reduces men’s fertility. Heavy smokers can produce up to 20 per cent fewer sperm – sperm which may also be abnormal – making it harder to fertilise the egg. Sperm genetic material (DNA) can also be damaged by the chemicals in cigarette smoke. Men and women who smoke – and women who are exposed to other people’s smoke – are more likely to take longer to get pregnant.
Both active and passive smoking (inhaling someone else’s smoke) reduces a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant. In fact, passive smoking is only slightly less harmful to a woman’s fertility than active smoking.
Research shows it is much easier for people to stop smoking if they do so with their partner. Deciding to quit together is a great way to increase your fertility and chances of having a healthy baby. For more information and support on how to quit smoking, visit www.quit.org.au
Alcohol affects a man’s chance of becoming a father – TRUE
Heavy consumption of alcohol can reduce a man’s fertility, cause impotence, reduce libido and affect sperm quality. To calculate you alcohol intake visit DrinkWise Australia.
Tight underwear can reduce a man’s sperm health – TRUE
Some say that wearing loose fitting underwear may be good for sperm. While this is unproven it seems sensible given that testicles need to be a couple of degrees cooler than body temperature for good sperm production.
Sperm is not sensitive to heat – MISCONCEPTION
Resting a laptop on the thighs can reduce sperm production. Heat and radiation can damage a man’s fertility, so it is best for men to not use laptops on their laps, or have a barrier between your lap and the laptop. Find out more about Your Sperm and How to Look After Them.
Exercise makes dads-to-be more baby ready – TRUE….but
Being active and maintaining a healthy weight range is an important way to increase a man’s chance of fathering a healthy baby. However, if you’re a serious long-distance cyclist, triathlete or iron-man enthusiast, evidence suggests that prolonged time in the saddle may affect fertility. This may be due to irritation and compression caused by friction of the testes against the saddle, or tight lycra, which raises the temperature around the testes and can decrease blood flow to your genitals. If you’re a serious cyclist, consider investing in a good saddle and padded shorts and make sure to take regular breaks from the seat.
Men can have children at any age – MISCONCEPTION
A man’s age matters. As men get older, the chances of his partner becoming pregnant and having a healthy child decreases. Male fertility starts to decline after 40 when sperm quality diminishes. This means it takes longer for their partners to conceive and when they do, there’s an increased risk of miscarriage. A man’s age also influences the child’s future health. Children of older fathers are more likely to have mental health problems and autism spectrum disorders.