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Male Infertility Fact or Fiction?

 

From cycling to sex toys, from laptops to spas, tight underwear to mobile phones, the rumour mill surrounding male infertility is as colourful as it is misleading. According to a study by the University of Exeter in 2014, over 70 million couples worldwide are affected by infertility, and in the majority of cases both the man and the woman share an equal responsibility for their fertility problems. While much study has focused on female infertility, male fertility issues are open to much myth and rumour, so let’s take an educated look and discover the fact from the fiction.

 

Does cycling cause infertility?

There is much attention given to the theory that bikes can damage the male reproductive system, however for the cycling enthusiast it's good news – it’s not true! A small study undertaken in Austria found that male mountain bike riders may experience depleted fertility from scrotal damage as a result of jolting over rough terrain – but the study was extreme and only focused on men who cycled over 3000 miles a year (which equates to an average of 2 plus hours a days, 6 days a week) which is quite extreme. The study also concluded that the main factor was the narrowness of the racing-type seat and that newer, wider seats with holes were a safer solution. It was a limited study and has since been widely criticised within the medical community for its misleading findings and according to Karen Boyle MD, FACS Director of Reproductive Medicine & Surgery, Sexuality and Aesthetics at George Washington University School of Medicine concludes that there is no data strong enough to support the idea that cycling inhibits male fertility. In fact, cycling is a brilliant form of exercise and staying healthy and fit is a key factor in male fertility.

 

Are Saunas and Hot Tubs trouble?

If your partner is prone to a sauna session or a dip in the hot tub post exercise and you are actively trying-to-conceive, this is one pampering process he will need to stop. Exposure to the high temperatures can increase the temperature of the testicles, which in turn can kill sperm and disrupt sperm production. This may result in a low sperm count and motility, however, the rise in sperm and testicle temperature is not permanent and once you’ve got the positive on the pregnancy test he can resume his regular routine.

 

Boxers vs. Briefs?

The Boxer vs. Brief debate is often a topic of conversation when targeting male infertility causes, but fear not, this one doesn’t have any effect on the male’s ability to produce healthy, viable sperm. There is no conclusive evidence that supports the theory that tight underwear could do damage by squishing a man’s private parts or indeed that it increases scrotal temperature. Just be comfortable!

 

Can a Laptop burn more than just a disc?

Considering that many laptops can burn the legs, men may want to keep them away from their scrotal area. Similar to the sauna theory, the heat from the laptop can raise scrotal temperature which again may disrupt sperm production. Even though not all experts agree on this one if you’re actively trying-to-conceive err on the side of caution and place the laptop on a desk or table.

 

Can mobile phones cause interference?

There has been a lot of media attention linking mobile phones with increased male infertility, so what’s the deal? While we still don’t fully understand what effect electromagnetic radiation has on our bodies, studies have shown that it can lead to higher levels of free radicals in sperm samples, possibly decreasing the quality and motility of those swimmers. Even though further study is needed to confirm this theory, the current data is concerning enough to indicate that men who are trying-to-conceive should keep their mobile phones out of their pockets and perhaps embrace the man purse!

 

Is age a factor?

While there is much evidence and research to educate women on the optimal age in which their fertility peaks and troughs, men can in fact father children well into their senior years with little effort. Male fertility does decline with age with sperm production decreasing in men after the age of 40 and most definitely after the age of 50, however unlike women who undergo menopause, men can conceive well after that.... Michael Douglas for example, and let’s not forget Rod Stewart!

 

Stress and fertility

It is well researched that stress can negatively affect the majority of bodily processes and can certainly influence both male and female fertility. High-stress levels can lead to impotence, erectile dysfunction and even shut down the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis (a group of glands that are crucial in developing and regulating your reproductive system) all of which can impact fertility. So even though we may not be able to eliminate stress completely, make plans to reduce your stress levels, through meditation, relaxation or exercise.

 

An expanding waistline won’t expand your family.

When planning to start your family it’s vital that both of you watch your weight and try as much as possible to stay within your recommended BMI guidelines. Obesity in men is often associated with a decreased sperm count and quality, and research suggests that excessive weight may also be associated with misshapen sperm which can interfere with the sperm's motility and ability to reach and penetrate the egg.

 

 

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