The biggest cause of infertility in men.

  • May 10, 2014

imagedad8The biggest cause of infertility in men is abnormal sperm. Sperm can be affected by lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking, alcohol and taking drugs.

The good news is, once you become aware of them, they are fairly easy to avoid.

Is it true that the temperature of testicles affects fertility?

The testicles are outside your body for a reason. They are happiest at 34.5 degrees C, which is just below normal body temperature. They need this cooler environment to produce the best-quality sperm.

Working in a hot environment, such as a bakery or a foundry, or sitting for long periods has been linked to increased testicle temperature. This may affect sperm’s ability to mature, leading to poorer sperm quality and a temporary drop in sperm production.


If you have a job that involves sitting for long periods, have regular “testie rest breaks” and get up and move around. Let the “boys” hang out (not literally… that will cost you your job) at the water cooler for a while.

One study found that heated waterbeds (yes, remember those?) and electric blankets were bigger culprits for raising testicle temperature than hot baths, saunas and hot tubs.

It won’t do any harm to try wearing loose-fitting boxer shorts rather than
“Tighty–Whities” for a while. Those lovely little undies (women hate them by the way) may increase the temperature of your family jewels up to one degree C. One study did show that men who wore boxer shorts were less likely to have problems with the movement (motility) of their sperm. Yes there is a good reason to go “Commando”

Can doing certain sports be a problem for male fertility?


You may have heard that cycling can be a problem. It’s true that men who are serious cyclists may have lowered sperm counts, poorer sperm quality and less mobile sperm.

We don’t know exactly why a lot of cycling may cause problems. One theory is `irritation and compression caused by friction of the testicles against the saddle. Another is that heat produced by wearing tight cycling shorts is to blame. Sitting on a bike seat for long periods can decrease blood flow to the genitals. This in turn can lead to erection problems.

One study found that men who cycled for more than five hours a week had poorer sperm counts. But this study was of men attending an IVF clinic, so they may well have had something else causing a fertility problem. It’s very unlikely to apply to you if you cycle as a hobby or commutes to work on a bicycle, so don’t be put off cycling if you’re a regular cyclist. You’ll get so many health benefits from leading an active life style. Unless you’re cycling at a professional level, you’re very unlikely to experience problems. And being inactive can lead to fertility problems in itself.

If you’re cycling long distances, lift yourself off the seat now and again. Better still, invest in a wider, padded bicycle seat that won’t compress your package, or wear sexy padded cycling shorts. (women love these!) See a doctor if you feel any numbness or pain or have erection problems after cycling.

If you play contact sports, such as hockey, wear protective gear to prevent injury, perhaps from a puck, to your family jewels.

Does my weight affect my fertility?

Staying at a healthy weight helps to keep your sperm in good condition. You can do this by having a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly.

Being overweight (having a body mass index or BMI of 25 or higher) may lower the quality and quantity of your sperm. The effect is greater in men who have a BMI of 30 or higher.

Does stress affect male fertility?


Oh YA! Severe stress may affect some men’s sperm count. It does this by lowering levels of a hormone called gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH), which is needed for sperm production.

But the evidence on stress and male fertility is pretty mixed, probably because stress levels are so hard to measure.

One study found that being stressed didn’t seem to affect fertility in healthy men. But it did affect men who already had a low sperm count. Another study looked at men who had recently experienced two or more stressful life events. It found they were more likely to have poor-quality sperm than men who hadn’t had the same experiences.

Being stressed can also affect your relationship with your partner (this is a no-brainer), lowering your sex drive and making you less inclined to have sex.

If it’s taking you and your partner longer than you’d like to conceive, going through fertility tests and treatments can be stressful too. Just ask any man who’s had to drop off a sperm sample to the pretty receptionist at the fertility clinic. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know whether stress is the cause or the consequence of fertility problems.

Try to take time to relax and unwind. Go for a swim or a walk (yes a walk, she will love you for it), or play a sport that you enjoy. Studies haven’t yet proved that reducing stress through exercise will boost your conception chances, but it certainly can’t do you any harm.

What about alcohol?

Heavy drinking can be harmful to sperm (and everyone around you). Men who drink heavily on a regular basis have lowered sperm counts and testosterone levels. The good news is that the harmful effects of heavy drinking are reversed once you cut down on alcohol. Heavy drinking can also affect sexual relationships.

The current recommended guidelines on safe drinking for men trying to conceive recommend no more than three drinks of alcohol per day. It’s a good idea to make this your maximum and aim for less if you can. (You can save up for when your children are teens… you will need it then) Also, leave some days a week where you don’t have any alcohol. It’s not impossible. You CAN DO IT!  One drink is the equivalent 341ml (12 ounce) bottle of beer, 142 ml (5 ounces) of wine or a 43ml (1.5 ounce) of spirits.

Should I stop smoking to help my fertility?

Yes. Apart from smoking being generally harmful to your health, men who smoke may damage the quality of their sperm. You don’t want damaged sperm do you?  It may take longer for your partner to become pregnant, particularly if you smoke heavily.

If your partner smokes too, you’ll both be much more likely to succeed in stopping smoking if you do it together. It will be healthier for your pregnancy and your new baby in the long run.

Does cocaine, marijuana or steroids reduce male fertility?

Not surprisingly, heavy drug use damages sperm. But using illegal drugs like cocaine, marijuana or anabolic steroids casually can also lower the quality of your sperm. This may in turn reduce your fertility.

If you are worried about the effects of any drugs you have taken on your fertility, seek advice from your doctor.

How long before a lifestyle change impacts sperm quality?

It takes about three months for your body to complete a cycle of sperm production. So any changes you make to your lifestyle today will take a while to produce improved sperm.

If you can commit yourself to a few months of healthy living and eating you’ll be in top shape to father a child.