A Man’s Fertility Can Be Affected by More Than Just Testosterone Levels

If you assume infertility can only affect women, think again. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says it impacts both men and women equally. This means couples who are having difficulty conceiving need to take a closer look at both partners.

While some causes of infertility are tough to treat, changes in a few lifestyle habits may help increase sperm production and function. If you’re looking to start a family, or if you’re curious about what can impair a man’s ability to reproduce, keep in mind these seven things that can affect a man’s fertility.

1. Smoking

man lights a cigarette in his mouth

Smoking can affect fertility. | iStock.com

According to a recent meta-analysis that included almost 6,000 men, toxins from tobacco negatively affect sperm and semen. The studies concluded cigarette smoke reduces sperm count and motility, and also affects the way they’re shaped. This was even more true for moderate to heavy smokers. A different study also found secondhand smoke increases risk of infertility for women, so smoking around your partner can make your chances of becoming pregnant even slimmer. We all know smoking is bad for us anyway, so consider this just one more reason to kick the habit.

2. Alcohol

man drinking liquor

Ease up on the drinks. | iStock.com

In a study on the relationship between alcohol consumption and semen quality, researchers found consuming as few as five alcoholic beverages per week can be harmful. For those who regularly had more than 40 drinks, sperm concentration was 33% lower than those who only drank between one and five drinks every week. In short, the more you drink, the worse the outcome. This shouldn’t be all that surprising when you consider how alcohol can wreak havoc on your body. The study also found alcohol impacts testosterone levels, which can make it hard to engage in intercourse, so you’ll want to be extremely mindful about alcohol intake if you’re trying to have a baby.

3. Certain types of medication

prescription pills falling out of a bottle

Your medication could be to blame. | iStock.com

We know medication can spell problems for everything from depression to maintaining your weight, so it’s not all that surprising it can play a major role in fertility as well. One example, interestingly enough, is replacement testosterone. Cleveland Clinic explains using this supplement causes natural testosterone levels to drop, which signals the testicles to stop producing sperm. Other drugs that can cause problems include long-term use of opiates and 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, which are used to treat prostate enlargement. Depending on the dosage and how often these medications are taken, they may cause sperm count and quality to decrease. Always speak with your doctor about side effects of medication, and listen up if he or she mentions they can interfere with hormones and the reproductive system.

4. Medical conditions

elements of blood pressure

Certain medical conditions can impact your fertility. | iStock.com

If you have certain medical conditions, they could be affecting your ability to reproduce. The University of Maryland Medical Center says this may include diabetes, thyroid disease, heart attack, and chronic anemia. Urinary tract or genital infections like prostatitis (inflamed prostate) may also cause complications. Radiation from cancer treatments can also increase risk of infertility if performed close to the reproductive organs. If you have any of these conditions, speak with your doctor about the best ways to treat them that won’t hurt your chances of having children.

5. Overheating

man buying online with a credit card

Be careful of where you put your laptop. | iStock.com

According to Mayo Clinic, high temperatures around the testicles can interfere with sperm production and function. While studies are limited, certain factors like wearing tight clothes or working on a laptop for an extended period of time can result in too much heat, which may temporarily lower sperm count. Even sitting down for too long or regularly using a hot tub or sauna may cause problems. Those hoping to become fathers should keep these things in mind.

6. Obesity

an overweight man walking to work

Obesity can cause a wealth of issues. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Yes, weight can impact a man’s ability to reproduce. According to a study published in Human Reproduction, semen quality decreases for those with a larger waist circumference and a higher BMI. Additionally, the authors noted the relationship was linear, meaning problems get worse and worse as men gain weight. Men interested in having children should consider taking steps to lose a few pounds if they’ve been putting on weight.

Wanting to have kids is just one reason to lose weight, too. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk for scores of health problems and nearly always boosts confidence. Get on a more wholesome path by practicing healthy lifestyle habits and following a nutritious diet.

7. Environmental toxins

Tractor spraying soybean field at spring

Be careful of exposure to toxins.  | iStock.com/fotokostic

It’s no secret toxins can cause health issues, and for men, increased risk of infertility is one of them. WebMD says regular exposure to certain toxins like insecticides, pesticides, heavy metals, and lead can harm the male reproductive system. This means those working jobs that require regular exposure to these substances may be at a greater risk. While some exposure is often unavoidable, it’s best to try to stay away from such toxins whenever possible.