How Male Fertility Works (and Why Younger Men Should Care)
Infertility is a common problem that affects many men. According to the CDC, male-factor infertility is a contributing cause in approximately 35% of infertile couples. In spite of this, the subject of male fertility tends to fly under the radar. This is exacerbated by the misconception that male fertility lasts forever. As a result, many young men end up not taking care of their fertility as much as they should.
Understanding Male Fertility
Under normal conditions, a man’s reproductive system creates, stores, and transports small reproductive cells known as sperm. During sex, sperm undergo a complex preparation process that takes them through the entire male reproductive system. The sperm are then released as semen via ejaculation through the penis.
It then enters the female reproductive system through the vagina, where it will travel until it reaches the fallopian tubes. If there is an egg present in the tubes, fertilization can occur. The success of this intricate process hinges upon the correct environmental conditions and hormone levels.
Types of Male Infertility
The most common type of male infertility stems from sperm disorders, generally meaning that the sperm are physically deficient in some way. This includes being oddly shaped or not moving correctly, which can be caused by genetic traits or lifestyle choices.
Another common type of infertility is varicoceles, which is a condition characterized by swollen veins in the scrotum. These swollen veins prevent blood from properly draining from the scrotum, causing the testicles to heat up and become too warm to produce sperm. Other common types include retrograde ejaculation, immunology issues, obstructions, and hormonal imbalances.
Causes of Male Infertility
While some cases of infertility are caused by genetic, medical, or biological factors, others are the result of lifestyle choices. Infertility in men has been linked to:
- Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Poor sleep habits
- Eating poorly
- High stress
- Certain medications
Why Men Should Start Caring for Their Fertility When They Are Younger
As men get into their 40s and 50s, their sperm become less potent, numerous, concentrated, and motile. Furthermore, many men over the age of 40 struggle with erectile dysfunction or a decrease in libido. As such, men over 40 are 30% less likely to conceive.
It’s important that men take care of their fertility when they are younger so that they have a higher chance of conceiving in the future. By upgrading some of their lifestyle habits, such as improving their diet or quitting smoking, they can improve their fertility health.
Another option that young men can consider is cryopreservation, also known as sperm banking. Cryopreservation acts as insurance in that it allows young men to save their young, healthy sperm for the future in case of infertility.
For more information about male fertility, as well as advice on how you can be more proactive about your fertility health, start a conversation with one of the fertility specialists at Washington Fertility Center.