February 17, 2021
Clinical Contributors to this Story
David Shin, M.D. contributes to topics such as Urology.
A quick online search for male infertility information can lead you down a rabbit hole of myths and misconceptions. These common fertility misbeliefs have many couples who are trying to conceive confused about what’s fact and what’s fiction.
David Shin, M.D., chief of the Center for Sexual Health & Fertility at Hackensack University Medical Center addresses 5 myths centered around male infertility.
MYTH #1:Infertility is rarely the man’s fault.
FACT: Contrary to popular belief, infertility is not a woman’s issue, nor is it the man’s fault. Infertility impacts men and women equally. “In up to 50% of the couples I see for a fertility evaluation, male factor is the issue,” says Dr. Shin. “When patients and their partners begin to share their challenges about starting a family, it’s important to create a compassionate and caring environment that allows that conversation to take place.” Having the initial, intimate discussion without blame or judgement may be the first challenge.
MYTH #2: Age is only a state of mind when trying to conceive.
FACT: Age is an important determinant for both women and men. As age increases, fertility begins to decrease and health risks need to be considered. “Men greater than 40 years are at increased risk of having potential adverse health outcomes for their offspring. They are also at increased risk for testis cancer, pituitary tumors and genetic abnormality when diagnosed with male infertility,” says Dr. Shin.
MYTH #3:Lifestyle changes won’t improve sperm counts.
FACT: Although you may have a clean bill of health, modifying some behaviors may naturally increase sperm quality. Changes to diet have been known to improve sperm counts, such as snacking on tree nuts or limiting your daily coffee intake. Quitting smoking, minimizing alcohol consumption, or increasing your amount of exercise may also help. Healthy living can contribute to healthy sperm counts.
MYTH #4: Testosterone supplements are good for fertility.
FACT: There are several products on the market that claim to improve testosterone levels. Many over-the-counter testosterone boosters also suggest that they improve low libido but are not FDA approved for this. Any testosterone injections, supplements or steroids are potentially very BAD for fertility and can lead to ZERO sperm counts. With careful supervision by a health care provider, medications to increase testosterone levels naturally may be acceptable for fertility.
MYTH #5:Nothing can be done to improve sperm counts.
FACT: While natural methods may show slight changes in sperm quality, hormonal therapy or surgery has shown to increase testosterone in many cases which can lead to improved semen quality measures such as sperm count, shape or movement.
The most common medical condition associated with male infertility is varicocele, an enlarged vein within the scrotum. According to Dr. Shin, men who undergo a microsurgical varicocelectomy may improve their semen parameters up to 60-70% with many resulting in pregnancy six to nine months following surgery.
The bottom line is – male infertility is treatable!
Often, the hardest part for men struggling with reproductive or sexual problems is to walk through the door, sit down and start a conversation to discuss these sensitive issues.
Dr. Shin believes it is important to develop a treatment plan that is tailored for each individual patient’s goals and lifestyle. Sometimes, this plan may require performing complex microsurgery while other times it may be as simple as adjusting medications.
With successful diagnosis and treatment, couples can achieve intimacy, improve their relationship and even start a family.
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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.