To understand how to boost male fertility, see your doctor about medical tests and treatment. Learn how healthy lifestyle changes can boost male fertility, too.
When a couple with no known fertility issues tries to conceive a baby and, after a year of trying, no pregnancy results, it’s time to look into causes of infertility.
Overall, about one-third of infertility cases have no known explanation, and one-third result from female reproductive issues. The rest are due to male fertility problems, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
If it turns out the problem is with the man’s reproductive system, there are many strategies — both medical and non-medical — that can often boost male fertility.
Common causes of male infertility
Exact reasons for male infertility aren’t always identified. However, most of the time, a medical history, exam, and testing — when indicated — by a urologist, reproductive endocrinologist, or other reproductive health specialist can identify the likely cause of a man’s fertility problem.
The doctor asks questions about a man’s history to see if he’s ever had mumps (which may raise the risk of infertility) and whether he’s experienced any injuries or surgery to his penis or testicles (where sperm is made and stored) that might block sperm. Any history of repeated infections or surgery (including a vasectomy that may have been reversed but left scar tissue) might suggest blocked sperm, as well.
The reproductive health specialist will also check to see if retrograde ejaculation, which occurs when sperm-carrying semen flows into the bladder instead of out the penis, is causing infertility. This condition is linked to diabetes, certain medications, spinal injuries, and past bladder, urethra, or prostate surgery.
The doctor will also note signs of an infection, hernia, or abnormal hormone levels (such as decreased body and facial hair, increased body fat, and decreased muscle mass). A semen sample may be taken to check the health of the sperm, along with blood tests to check the status of hormones, according to the NICHD.
The medical exam will reveal whether the man has an enlarged vein, called a varicocele, in a testicle. This can be a key finding because, while varicoceles can be harmless, they are commonly linked to male fertility woes. In fact, varicoceles are present in about 40 percent of men with infertility problems.
Varicoceles can harm sperm growth by blocking proper blood drainage, causing testicles to be too warm for making sperm. The result can be a low sperm count, the Urology Care Foundation explains.
How to boost male fertility with medical treatments
The good news about male infertility is there are more treatments than ever before for the problem.
For example, varicoceles can usually be fixed with a minor outpatient surgery called a varicocelectomy, resulting in higher sperm counts and better sperm movement.
If other causes of sperm blockages, such as scar tissue, are identified and need surgery, male infertility can often be treated with outpatient, minimally invasive surgical procedures, performed under general anesthesia or IV sedation, according to the Urology Care Foundation.
Even if a man has a spinal cord injury or another medical condition that stops the ejaculation of semen, sperm can be retrieved and used in assisted reproductive techniques, such as in vitro fertilization, to fertilize his partner’s egg and result in pregnancy.
Other medical therapies to help treat male infertility include:
- Hormone treatment. If a medical evaluation has found male infertility is caused by either too low or too high levels of specific hormones, or if your body is not able to use the hormones it makes effectively, hormone therapy may be prescribed.
- Therapy for erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. Counseling or medication for these common problems can help improve the odds of achieving pregnancy.
- Antibiotic treatment for reproductive tract infections. This may not restore fertility but can help prevent scarring and blockages.
How to boost fertility in males with lifestyle changes
If you are planning to start a family, it’s a good idea to plan ahead to make sure you are making healthy lifestyle choices. In fact, the March of Dimes points out you can make changes in your life to increase your chances of achieving fatherhood without fertility treatment.
Sticking to a healthy, nutritious diet and working on achieving a healthy weight is important when it comes to boosting male fertility. Being either underweight or, especially, significantly overweight, is linked to male infertility. And research has backed up the idea that staying away from hot tubs is a good idea if you are trying to achieve pregnancy — the heat lowers your sperm count.
Are you suffering from anxiety or depression? Prolonged emotional stress, including worries about infertility, can have a negative impact on sperm count, too. In addition, ongoing depression and anxiety may result in sexual dysfunction, hindering the ability to achieve pregnancy. Talk to a psychologist or other therapist, and try self-help measures like exercise and meditation.
Also, discuss all medications you are taking with your doctor. Several drugs can impact male fertility, and you may be able to stop or change the medications.
For example, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) points out certain antifungal medications, Allopurinol (a prescription drug used to treat gout and kidney stones), some antibiotics (erythromycin and neomycin), anabolic steroids, and even the over-the counter heartburn and GERD medicine cimetidine (Tagamet) may harm male fertility.
The AAFP also advises avoiding pesticides, organic solvents, and exposure to radiation to protect fertility as well as staying away from excessive alcohol, cigarettes, and recreational drugs (including marijuana) to optimize your chances of boosting fertility.
July 22, 2019
Janet O’Dell, RN