Five Male Fertility Myths Debunked
1. MYTH: IT’S A FEMALE PROBLEM
We all know that it takes two to tango, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to creating human life. Unsurprisingly, that means that when things don’t go according to plan, statistics show that 50% of the time, the problem may lie with the male. To break it down, it’s estimated that around 35%-40% of fertility problems are caused by male conditions, the same percentage is caused by female conditions, and around 20%-25% is thought to be a combination of male/female issues and unknown causes. So, it’s definitely not a female thing.
2. MYTH: DON’T WEAR BRIEFS
Men, if you want to wear boxer shorts, Y-fronts or even go commando, it really doesn’t matter. The myth is based on the theory that wearing tight-fitting underwear raises body temperature in the scrotum, meaning sperm cannot survive. But, while it sounds convincing, it has no scientific evidence whatsoever.
“Men should wear whatever is comfortable for them,” says Greg Sommer, chief scientific officer for Sandstone Diagnostics. "Scrotal temperature is important – the testicles need to stay a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body for proper sperm production, which is why they're outside the body. Wearing snug underwear, though, doesn't seem to have much impact."
3. MYTH: ONLY THE WOMAN’S HEALTH MATTERS
Poor health choices like a bad diet and excessive drinking can have a serious impact on the quality of a man’s sperm. A 2014 study in BMJ Open tested Danish military recruits and found that the higher their alcohol consumption, the lower their sperm quality in terms of count, shape and size.
The effects are even more serious for men over the age of 40, as shown by research in the journal Fertility & Sterility, which found that men who took more Vitamin C, had better quality sperm than those who consumed less of the vitamin. So, if you’re trying for a baby it might not be a bad idea to make sensible health decisions and cut down on alcohol.
4. MYTH: AGE IS NOT A FACTOR FOR MEN
Everyone knows that a woman’s age can have a huge bearing on how likely she is to fall pregnant, with the process becoming harder the older the female gets. But not that many people know that the same is true for men.
Even though famous older men like Michael Douglas and Mick Jagger have fathered children later in life, science tells us that the quality of men’s sperm decreases as age increases. For a male under the age of 25, it takes on average four-and-a-half months to help achieve a viable pregnancy with their partner. However, for a male over the age of 40, that average jumps to almost two years, and the risk of miscarriage also increases.
5. MYTH: ABSTAIN FROM SEX BEFORE YOU START TRYING FOR A BABY
You may think that saving up your sperm before trying for a baby is a smart move, but, in fact, the complete opposite is the case. If you’re trying to conceive, it’s a much better idea to ejaculate frequently in order to keep your sperm fresh, and therefore more powerful. “Infrequent ejaculation is definitely a contributing factor to infertility,” says male fertility consultant Paul Serhal. “I advise clients to ejaculate at least two times a week to clear out the sperm which has had its DNA fragmented so it’s replaced by new, more potent ones.”
Gershon Portnoi is a freelance journalist and award-winning author, who writes about sport, fitness, health and wellbeing. His work has been published in many titles including WIRED, Healthy For Men, and High Life.