A high body mass index (BMI) when trying to conceive is not just a concern for women; being overweight can also create stumbling blocks for men, as well. Men who are overweight or obese may have lower sperm counts or may have no sperm at all in their ejaculate. Excessive weight can also create hormonal changes that reduce fertility like a reduction in testosterone levels, a diminished libido and an inability to maintain an erection.
Recent studies have shown that, in addition to the well-known health risks associated with smoking like lung cancer and emphysema, it can also have a substantial impact on the reproductive system. Men who smoke have been found to have a lower sperm count, reduced motility (the sperm’s ability to swim to the egg) and poor morphology (the shape of the sperm). Additionally, smoking has been linked to decreased success rates with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Alcohol can reduce a couple’s ability to successfully conceive without medical intervention. A man who drinks more than 1-2 alcoholic beverages per day may have:
- lower testosterone levels
- poor quality sperm
- a reduction in sperm count
- a diminished libido
While studies are inconclusive, extended exposure to heat can temporarily impair sperm production, sperm count and overall function. Men who are actively trying to conceive should limit their use of saunas, hot tubs, whirlpools and baths. Additionally, men should avoid sitting for extended periods of time, wearing tight clothing and using a laptop as these can increase the temperature in the scrotum, which may reduce sperm production.
Did you know men and women contribute equally to infertility struggles? Men, women and unknown causes each account for about a third of the challenges faced by 1 in 8 American couples.
Male-factor infertility accounts for about 30% of all infertility issues. Abnormalities with sperm, like shape, motility and quantity, are common, which is why a semen analysis is a vital part of any fertility evaluation. While abnormal analysis results don’t always equate to a fertility issue, certain conditions can make natural conception more difficult.
Sertoli Cell Only Syndrome
Although a rare condition, Sertoli Cell Only Syndrome (SCO syndrome) can be a cause of male-factor infertility. In SCO syndrome, there is a complete absence of sperm progenitor cells and an absence of spermatogenesis. When there is no sperm production (azoospermia), a couple must use a sperm donor to conceive a baby.
- Azoospermia: absence of sperm
- Asthenozoospermia: reduced sperm motility
- Oligozoospermia: decreased sperm count
- Necrozoospermia: immobile or dead sperm
- Teratozoospermia: abnormal sperm shape (morphology)
- Globozoospermia: specific abnormality in the shape that prevents fertilization
- OAT syndrome (oligoasthenozoospermia): a combination of low count, motility and morphology
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) defines sexual dysfunction as a problem that occurs with the desire to have sex, arousal or orgasm. Both men and women can experience challenges in any of these areas. There are many factors that can contribute to sexual dysfunction, including side effects from medication, elevated blood pressure, depression, hormonal imbalance, injury or prior surgeries.
The most common sexual problem for men is erectile dysfunction, which is the inability to either get or maintain an erection. When a couple has been actively trying to conceive — timing intercourse, charting ovulation — the pressure for the male partner to perform on demand can contribute to erectile issues.
As male-factor infertility accounts for 30% of all infertility issues, it’s important for men to maintain an open, honest dialogue with his fertility specialist about any performance challenges.
Male Sexual Problems
- Erectile Dysfunction: inability to get or maintain an erection
- Retrograde Ejaculation: occurs when semen enters the bladder rather than out through the urethra
- Anejaculation: inability to ejaculate
- Premature Ejaculation: uncontrolled ejaculation resulting from minimal sexual stimulation
- Low Libido: diminished or complete lack of desire to have sex
Andrology is the study of male reproductive health and is a vital component of reproductive endocrinology. In the andrology lab, the male aspect/semen is analyzed against normal parameters to determine sperm viability.