June is National Men’s Health Month, so we thought it would be appropriate to talk about the male side of fertility. The male fertility evaluation starts with a medical history. It is important to identify any issues that could affect fertility, such as underlying medical problems, medications, or poor lifestyle factors such as tobacco use or excessive alcohol. A semen analysis is needed because it gives us important information about the volume of the ejaculate, concentration of sperm, their motility, and shape. Any significant abnormalities need further evaluation with hormone testing and a physical exam by a urologist who specializes in male fertility. We suggest Dr. Stephen Shaban at Associated Urologists of North Carolina (www.auncurology.com).
Poor control of medical problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure can harm sperm quality and cause erectile or ejaculatory problems. Medications used to treat high blood pressure and depression can also cause erectile dysfunction. It is not unusual for men to develop erectile or ejaculatory problems when they are trying to conceive because of the stress and anxiety associated with infertility. Sometime men even become depressed due to the lack of control over the situation. Dr. Sara Rosenquist is a local sex therapist who has helped couples struggling with sexual dysfunction and infertility (www.drsara.com).
Tobacco use has many negative effects, including being harmful to sperm. Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits, and prevents subjecting children to second hand smoke. Children exposed to second hand smoke are prone to developing respiratory illnesses and allergies.
Obesity is a growing problem in the US. There is a clear link between obesity and impaired sperm production. Men should attempt to attain an ideal body weight by exercising and eating right. Aerobic activity should be done at least twice a week. A diet rich in fruits, nuts, and vegetables will provide a natural source of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. These have been shown to help improve sperm concentration and motility.
Getting a good night’s sleep and minimizing stress are also important. Men should get 7-9 hours of sleep and find ways to deal with stress. Exercise is a great way to decrease stress, and so are other methods such as acupuncture or massage. Tobacco and alcohol are not the right ways to handle stress in one’s life!
Finally, as partners, men can encourage and support the health of their partner. Though it is the female who plays a more active role during fertility treatment, the male partner can be supportive by understanding her treatments and participating in her care by attending appointments and assisting with her medications.