Understanding Infertility

As many as 12 percent of couples trying to start a family are infertile. Approximately 40 percent of fertility problems stem from problems in the man.

Pinpointing and treating fertility problems in men is easier than in women. Examining and testing the man is logically the first course of action when infertility is suspected.Infertility

For a man to be fertile, he must produce enough healthy sperm. The sperm must be able to pass through his body and be ejaculated effectively into the woman’s vagina.

If, after one year of unprotected sex, no pregnancy has occurred, consult your doctor to begin fertility testing. A physical exam will be performed and a sample of ejaculated semen will be obtained. The semen is analyzed by a laboratory. Quantity, color, presence of infections and blood are noted. The appearance, shape, activity and number of sperm indicate if they are healthy enough for fertility.

A low sperm count and poor sperm motility (sperm that swim poorly and have trouble fertilizing an egg) are the most common fertility problems in men. Increasing your fertility can be done by following these guidelines:


  • Watch your weight. Men who are extremely overweight have more fertility problems.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking has been associated with low sperm count and motility.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol when you’re trying to conceive. Alcohol lowers the production of testosterone, a hormone produced by the testicles.
  • Avoid wearing tight, restrictive underwear.
  • Clothing that holds the testicles too close to the body, where they’re heated up, interferes with sperm production.
  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time.
  • Avoid frequent stays in saunas, hot tubs and hot baths.
  • Avoid exposure to lead, zinc, copper or radiation. Pollutants can affect the quality and production of sperm.
  • Avoid prolonged periods without sex.
  • Lubricants like petroleum jelly and K-Y Jelly can kill or immobilize sperm. Use a water-based lubricant instead.
  • Take good care of yourself. Infections and illnesses can hamper the production of sperm.

After making changes to enhance fertility, it may still take two or three months before your sperm count and motility is increased enough to cause pregnancy. It will also be necessary to chart your partner’s ovulation to be sure that there’s an egg available for the sperm to meet and fertilize. If, after waiting, you and your partner are still unable to conceive, contact a doctor who specializes in infertility.

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