Health Topics

Men: How not to put fertility at risk


February 17, 2017

Find out what causes male infertility and what lifestyle choices might play a role.


Often discussions about fertility focus on the female partner, but 30 to 40 percent of fertility issues relate to just the male, says the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Many factors can affect male fertility — such as unrelated medical conditions (like diabetes, Klinefelter syndrome or and cystic fibrosis), medical treatments (like radiation or chemotherapy) hormonal imbalances, testicle dysfunctions, reproductive organ blockages, azoospermia (a lack of sperm) or oligospermia (low sperm count).

If you and your partner are experiencing difficulty conceiving a child, ask your doctor about getting checked out. Keep in mind that some lifestyle changes may be in order. The process of sperm going from production to ejaculation takes about 90 days.

“Things that are being done today will actually affect sperm about three months from now,” says Douglas Milam, M.D., associate professor of urologic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

We asked Milam about some lifestyle choices that could put male fertility at risk.


Testosterone supplementation

Contrary to what some people believe, taking testosterone supplements will actually hinder your fertility rather than increase it. “We see that in middle-age guys who think they need to be on testosterone or in guys who juice,” Milam says. “That basically eliminates fertility. If they are juicing, they are probably not producing sperm.”


Drug use

Habitual marijuana use affects sperm count and motility, and usually that takes several months to correct. “But it’s unlikely to affect the fertility of a recreational user who smokes, say, four times a year,” Milam explains.


Smoking cigarettes

Studies show that smokers have decreased sperm density, sperm counts and motility when compared to nonsmokers. If you and your partner are trying to conceive, it’s a good time to quit smoking.



“When people are really overweight, they end up converting testosterone to estrogen in the fat cells,” Milam says. He explains that carrying a few extra pounds isn’t likely to make much difference in regards to fertility, however.



Excessive heat exposure from hot tubs, hot baths, saunas, heating blankets and the like can also have a negative effect on sperm count.

Vanderbilt Urology Clinic offers the latest, most comprehensive care for a wide range of urologic diseases and conditions, including cancers of the prostate, bladder and kidneys and other urologic cancers; incontinence and other bladder-control problems; kidney stones; and sexual health problems, including erectile dysfunction (impotence). Details: 615-322-2880.