6 Male Infertility Myths
Posted 10/19/2016 by UHBlog
Infertility is on the rise. In fact, older Millennials – those born in 1982 through 2004 – are postponing parenthood, preferring instead to establish careers, achieve financial stability and pursue other goals.
When they begin to try in earnest to get or stay pregnant, about 12 percent of couples aren't successful. That’s often a time when myths and half truths surface. One common myth is that infertility is just a woman's issue.
It's not, says reproductive endocrinologist Rachel Weinerman, MD.
“At the Fertility Clinic, many of the women we counsel have the perception infertility is a female problem,” Dr. Weinerman says. “The statistics indicate that one-third of the time, it's caused by the woman's problem. Another third of cases is attributed to the man, and in the last third, it's a combination of factors or unexplained.”
Dr. Weinerman, along with urologist Kiranpreet Khurana, MD, sets straight some of the more common male infertility myths:
- Myth: The woman should get checked out first.
Fact: “Whenever we talk about infertility, it’s really a couple's issue,” Dr Khurana says. “If a man questions his fertility, that's a good enough reason to go and get checked out. There's no reason to wait.”
Infertility is usually defined as the inability to get pregnant after 12 months of trying. For people ages 35 and older, they're considered infertile after six months of trying.
- Myth: It’s complicated to treat a man’s infertility.
Fact: The test used to diagnose and treat male infertility is easy and effective, Dr. Khurana says.
“We diagnose male infertility by doing a semen analysis,” she says. “It helps us check how healthy the sperm is.”
Sperm health is based on the volume, count, motility and morphology (shape) of the sperm. Depending on what is found during the exam, your doctor can treat male infertility with lifestyle modifications, medications and/or surgery, Dr. Khurana says.
For instance, one of the most common problems is varicocele, which occurs when large veins develop in the testicle(s). This impairs sperm production and prevents a man from reaching optimal sperm counts of 15 million per milliliter or greater. Varicocele can be treated through outpatient surgery.
Factors that may affect a man’s fertility may include:
- Lifestyle, such as excessive weight, smoking, alcohol usage, etc.
- Genetics and hereditary, which might include physical abnormalities
- Chronic diseases and illnesses
- Hormonal changes
- Myth: The environment doesn’t affect a man’s fertility.
Fact: “When I talk to the male partner in the couple, I tell them that a woman is born with all the eggs she'll ever have, but that a man produces sperm all his life,” Dr. Weinerman says. “Still, it takes about three months for sperm to regenerate and fully mature, which makes it susceptible to the environment.”
That's why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns couples about the Zika virus. If a man is exposed to a Zika area, the sperm he produces during that period can be infected. Similarly, exposure to toxins (i.e., smoking), chemicals in the workplace and/or high heat (sauna, hot tub and/or laptops on your lap) can affect a man’s sperm.
- Myth: It doesn’t matter how frequently you have sex.
Fact: According to Dr. Weinerman, if the man has a normal sperm count – 20 million per milliliter or greater – spacing sex out to every other day or so is optimal.
- Myth: The type of underwear a man wears affects his sperm count.
Fact: Should a man wear boxers or briefs? According to Dr. Khurana, there are no studies to prove either affects sperm count. Just wear what’s comfortable.
- Myth: Infertility causes anxiety for women only.
Fact: Infertility can be equally as stressful to men, Dr. Weinerman says.
“Men feel guilty about the various treatments his female partner undergoes or that she is suffering,” she says. “Often, men don't have the support groups like women do, or they don't talk to their friends about how they feel. It’s okay to admit you're struggling and that this is difficult. If you need help, seek out a doctor or get support.”
Kiranpreet Khurana, MD is a urologist and director of men’s health/oncofertility at University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center.
Rachel Weinerman, MD is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist in the University Hospitals Fertility Center at UH Ahuja Medical Center.
You can request an appointment with Drs. Weinerman or Khurana or any other doctor online.