Ultimate Guide to Men’s Sexual Health And Fertility
The first step towards fixing or improving any condition is understanding everything you need to know about it.
Unfortunately, men’s sexual health and fertility is a subject for a lot of misconceptions and myths. This makes it more difficult to tell the difference between what’s right and wrong. In fact, men’s fertility is a still mystery to a lot of males to this day.
Today, I’ve taken it upon myself to guide you through everything you need to know about your sexual health and fertility. Let’s dive in!
Men’s Fertility Guide
In the following section, I’ll walk you through all the information that I’ve gathered throughout my years in research. This way, you can have a reliable guide to men’s fertility.
Understanding Your Fertility
Let’s start with the basics and put it in the simplest terms possible. Male fertility describes the man’s ability to get any woman who is also fertile pregnant. This pregnancy needs to be natural and carried out without any artificial assistance.
However, you need to know that there isn’t a solid term or a number for male’s fertility. In other words, fertility can vary amongst men depending on various factors like genetics.
Some men might be more fertile than the other, which translates to higher chances of conceiving a baby in fewer trials.
In other cases, some men might have a lower fertility rate but are still considered fertile. This means that they can still cause a fertile woman to get pregnant but with slightly lower chances and multiple trials.
Does That Mean That Infertile Men Have No Fertility at All?
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) describes male infertility as a disease of the reproductive system. It impairs the ability of a man to perform the basic function of reproduction.
To put it in a simpler way, male infertility is best described as when a man has extremely poor chances of making any fertile woman pregnant. Poor chances here means that even an infertile man can still have some chances, which are mostly through medical assistance.
Every man has a certain level of fertility. If a man’s fertility is below that certain line, they’re considered “medically infertile”.
What Controls a Man’s Fertility Level?
Of course, the first question you might have now is “if that’s so, what qualifies a man as a fertile individual?”
Although a function as simple and natural as conceiving a child might seem easy, the process is fairly complicated. For the reproduction process to occur, a lot of factors need to be working properly. Here’s a list of all the things that might have a role in the men’s fertility level.
Sperm count is a factor of sperm quality. It’s measured by the number of sperm cells found in the male’s semen.
As a result, sperm count is among the most vital characteristics for a male to become fertile. In fact, many doctors use sperm count tests as the main standard of male fertility.
For a man to become fertile he needs to have enough sperm cells to enter the fallopian tube of the woman and fertilize an egg.
If a man doesn’t have enough sperm per single ejaculation, there will be a very small number of candidates (and chances) to reach the egg. As a result, most of them might die earlier without fertilization.
As you’ve probably noticed, sperm cells have a journey to make once they’re inside the uterus. These tiny cells have to swim towards the fallopian tube of the female, which requires a healthy sperm cell with enough ability to move.
Sperm mobility is also one of the biggest factors of sperm quality. It’s measured as “the percentage of total sperm cells that are motile in a given sample of male semen”.
A healthy sperm cell should have a long tail that moves in a wiggling style. Any abnormal looking sperm cell isn’t considered a healthy one.
In a sample of semen, you might find sperm cells that aren’t moving properly, slower than usual, aren’t moving at all, or are even dead. In all these cases, they aren’t counted within the percentage of healthy sperm.
If a man has a higher percentage of viable and motile sperm cells, this means that he has better sperm quality.
On the flip side, any of the previous negative forms will lower the percentage of overall sperm quality. This reduces the overall fertility.
Male Testosterone Levels
Testosterone is one of the essential male sex hormones. It’s the one responsible for showing secondary male characters as well as producing sperm in testicles.
A normal adult male should have a normal testosterone range of around 270 to 1,070 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) in blood. However, every man has a different level of “normal” when it comes to testosterone. This depends on many factors, including genetics and others.
If a man’s testosterone level falls below his healthy range, he is said to have “hypogonadism”. This is the medical term to describe clinically low testosterone production.
It has a lot of noticeable physical effects, which can include having more feminine characteristics. However, it also reduces the sperm count depending on the severity of the case.
Low testosterone doesn’t necessarily cause infertility directly. A man with lower testosterone might still be able to make sperm, as there are other hormones that can help. However, it should be much less than his regular and healthy count.
Testosterone is also directly related to libido, which is a person’s sexual drive. If a man suffers from low testosterone levels, he’ll also suffer from a poorer desire to have sex. This, indirectly, affects male’s chances of conceiving.
Besides natural causes, there are many sexual disorders that can indirectly affect male fertility. For example, erectile dysfunction.
This disease is also known as “impotence”. It’s described as the man’s inability to develop and sustain an erection during sexual intercourse.
In addition to erectile dysfunction, other sexual disorders can also interrupt conceiving. These disorders include Peyronie’s disease, which causes a state of curvature or bending in the penis shaft.
Additionally, ejaculatory disorders can also affect the level of fertility indirectly. But more on that later.
While rare and unlikely, some sexually transmitted diseases might cause infertility in men.
For example, chlamydia can alter the genetic structure of sperm cells. This makes them malformed and reduces their mobility extensively, leading to male infertility.
Who Are Affected By Infertility?
According to a study by the Department of Clinical Biomedical Studies, the University of Florence, infertility affects about 7% of men. Each menstrual cycle, the chance that a couple having regular intercourse without protection conceive a child is about 25%.
Infertility is a problem for about 10% of couples of childbearing age. Also, almost half (40 to 50%) of human infertility, in general, is due to males’ infertility.
According to the same study, the low sperm cell count is the most common cause of male factor infertility. About 50% of men suffering from infertility believe that this condition is the primary factor for their problem.
The study also believes that about 2% of all men will show suboptimal sperm conditions. The condition might be due to a single factor or a combination of different factors.
Is Infertility Reversible?
The answer to this question isn’t simple. It depends on the reason that causes infertility in the first place. Infertility in males may be permanent in some cases. However, not all infertility cases are permanent. A huge amount of infertile men reverse their infertility through various methods.
These treatments helped many couples that were struggling with fertility issues. However, there’s no guarantee that these treatments will always treat the condition.
For example, most irreversible male infertility problems come from genetic disorders. Also, any damage to the reproductive organ to an inoperable level might deem an individual as permanently infertile. In fact, this is the case in Peyronie’s disease.
Apart from that, a lot of males can rely on fertility clinics in the hope to reverse their infertility.
How Can You Boost Your Fertility?
A lot of men are curious about what they can do to boost their fertility level.
In the following list, I’ll include some of the best ways to boost your fertility level to increase your chances of conceiving a baby.
Lose Some Weight
There are many studies that link male obesity with lower fertility levels. For example, a French University collected data from over 14 different studies over 10,000 men and found the following:
Among those who had normal weight, about 24% had lower than average sperm count with only 2.6% of them had no viable sperm.
Overweight men weren’t much behind on sperm count with 25.6%. However, there was a significant increase in individuals with all-dead sperms (more than 4.7%).
This percentage even bounced up to 6.9% in obese men that had a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30%.
Based on these studies, it’s obvious that excessive weight has a significant effect on the quality of sperm cells produced.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine also supports these findings. They found that overweight and obese men are more likely to suffer from lower sperm counts. They also noticed a huge lack of viable sperm cells when compared to normal-weighted men.
According to science, the increase in body fat is linked with changes in the levels of many reproductive hormones, such as testosterone and others.
Avoid the Heat Down There
You’ve probably heard someone saying that you should not put a laptop on your lap, as it’s bad for you. Well, they were right!
Try to avoid exposing your bottom half to excessive heat. Also, avoid wearing pants and underwear that cause intense heat in this region.
Become More Active
Being more athletic won’t only help you stay in shape and lose weight, but it’ll also help you produce better quality sperm.
As for this moment, there are inconsistent results about the direct effects of exercising on fertility. However, there’s a study that suggests that athletes who perform intense exercises experienced various results based on the sport they do.
For example, sports that require sitting in a position that elevates the temperature of the scrotum is more likely to reduce sperm count.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Based on the findings of this research, males should follow a healthy dietary pattern that supplies them with their needs for better reproductive health.
They encouraged consuming poultry, whole grains, as well as fruits and vegetables. They also encouraged consuming fish, nuts, and seafood. These foods are rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which play a huge role in the production of sperm.
Cut Down on Smoking
Another way to boost your fertility without any external help is by cutting down on smoking. A study on the effect of cigarettes on sperm quality found evidence of a negative relationship between them.
The researchers found that males who smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day have a lower sperm concentration by about 13 to 17%. These findings were also confirmed by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
How Can You Determine Your Sperm Quality
Unfortunately, being infertile isn’t something you can determine on your own. Unless you’re suffering from infertility due to sexual disorders, you won’t find any sign of a problem.
You may not find any problem getting an erection or ejaculation. Moreover, if you look at your semen with the naked eye, you won’t be able to tell any difference.
Recently, at-home sperm tests have become a huge trend. However, you’ll need to perform some medical tests to determine your sperm quality. These medical tests aim to determine the origin of the problem. Here are some of these fertility tests.
The most common fertility test is analyzing the quality of semen under a microscope. This test gives you initial results for the sperm cell count and viability.
After you ejaculate into a sterile cup, a trained professional starts the analysis process. If there’s no semen at all, it might be a problem in your urethra (plumbing). This can be solved with surgery.
The expert checks the shape, movement, and other attributes of the sperm cells. The higher the number of normal sperm, the higher your sperm quality.
However, there is a small percentage of infertile men who have normal sperm cells in good numbers. The doctor may order another semen analysis to confirm the results.
If your doctor is suspecting a hormonal problem, he may require you to perform a hormone test. This is similar to a regular blood test.
This one checks the level of testosterone and pituitary gland hormones. However, you should know that hormonal disorders are highly unlikely to be the cause of infertility.
A doctor may suggest a physical examination to test for abnormalities in veins above testicles. A physical examination can diagnose varicoceles, which is obvious swelling in testicular veins and can be correct by surgery.
As you already know, there are many genetic factors that can cause infertility. Your doctor may ask for specific tests depending on what he or she suspects.
Radiation and Imaging
In some rare cases, certain imaging might also be required. This includes tests like ultrasound testing of the scrotum, testing the sperm canal, or MRIs.
A testicular biopsy is usually performed to find abnormalities in the testicles on a cellular level. They’re also used to retrieve sperm in some assisted reproductive techniques.
Sperm: What Is Considered Normal?
As you already know there are several aspects to call sperm normal. Let’s have a brief overview of each one of these aspects.
Normal Sperm Count
As you know there should be enough sperm in semen for them to have enough chances to fertilize an egg. Ideally, every milliliter of semen should have at least 15 million sperm cells and up to about 260 million sperm cells. Anything below that number is considered a low sperm count.
In general, the average ejaculate volume is about 1.5 to 7.6 milliliters. If you do the math, an average of 40 to 60 million sperm cells in a single ejaculate is the minimum acceptable count.
A normal sperm cell should have an oval head with an elongated tail. The structure on its own doesn’t indicate sperm’s health. However, a normal-looking sperm cell is more likely to survive and fertilize a female’s egg.
As you know, sperm cells need to swim through the cervix, uterus, and two-third of the fallopian tube. This requires a large percentage of sperm cells to be healthy and active with their wiggling motion.
As a rule of thumb, most doctors believe that 40% of your sperm should be motile, so you can be fertile. This translates to a minimum of 6 million active cells per one milliliter of semen.
What Increases Sperm Count and Motility?
Besides the previous tips to boost general fertility, there are some supplements and fertility medications that some doctors may prescribe.
Let’s have a look at some of the nutrients that can increase the quality of your semen.
D-aspartate is an amino acid that proved to regulate male sex hormones. Some research has proven that it enhances sperm quality in terms of motility and count. There are also researches that support the value of other amino acids in boosting sperm quality, such as L-arginine.
You can find these amino acids in meats, eggs, grains, and in the form of dietary supplements.
Vitamins and Antioxidants
For years, researchers have been testing the benefits of vitamins in male fertility. Almost all vitamins have proven their effectiveness in enhancing male reproductive health. These vitamins include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Besides vitamins, antioxidants like zinc, coenzyme Q10, and folates have shown similar benefits in enhancing sperm quality.
What Are The Most Common Complications?
It’s highly unlikely for infertility to cause complications, as it’s not an actual disease. However, studies show that in some extremely rare cases, it might be a sign of life threatening conditions. These cases are usually tumors, such as testicular, spinal, or brain tumors.
Also, in some cases, a reversible infertility problem might become permanent if it’s ignored. In all these cases, the danger can be averted by paying your doctor a visit.
When Should You See A Doctor?
As a rule of thumb, a couple should try to conceive for at least 6 months to a year before seeking medical help.
However, you can always visit a urologist sooner, especially if you think you have a risk factor like STDs and sexual disorders.
Men’s Sexual Health Guide
Now that you know all the necessary information about male fertility, it’s time to dive deeper into another important topic in men’s health.
Having a healthy sex life is extremely important for the general health and well being of a man. Similar to male fertility, sexual health also has a lot of myths that need to be debunked.
Understanding Your Body
One of the best ways to improve your sexual health is by having enough knowledge and understanding of your body.
Let’s have a quick overview of the components of your reproductive organs.
The penis is the main organ in the male’s sexual intercourse. It has a cylindrical shape and contains three internal chambers. These chambers are filled with spongy erectile tissue.
The tissue is highly vascular. This means that it contains a huge network of blood vessels that floods that spongy tissue with blood causing an erection. This mainly follows male’s arousal but it can happen randomly sometimes.
It’s made of three parts that are connected to each other. The root is the part attached to the wall of the abdominal region. The shaft or body, which makes the majority of the penis.
Lastly, the glans, which is also called “the tip” or “the head”. The glans is covered with a loose skin layer called “the foreskin”. This part is sometimes removed in a certain procedure called “circumcision”.
Both urine and semen come out from the same penile opening. However, during erection, the flow of urine into the urethra is blocked.
This debunks a myth that urine might mix with semen and kill sperm cells. This won’t happen in a healthy person, as it’s a disease called “urethral obstruction or stricture”.
Testicles and Scrotum
Testicles make the other major part of the male sexual system. They’re contained inside a pouch of skin that hangs behind the penis, known as “the scrotum”.
As you might already know, testicles operate at a temperature that’s slightly cooler than the human internal body temperature. Special muscles in the scrotum adjust the position of the testicles to regulate its temperature.
They relax to keep the testicle further away to lower its temperature. Also, they can contract to get the testicles closer to the body for warmth.
How Male Reproductive Organs Work
The coordination between the different parts of the male reproductive system depends mainly on male sex hormones.
These hormones are the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and testosterone.
Together, these hormones produce sperm in a process known as “spermatogenesis”. Testosterone is also responsible for giving males their muscle mass and controlling libido.
A Note On Safe Sex Practices
Having safe sex protects you and your partner from a lot of problems, including unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
Many people think that safe sex is the prevention of skin contact only. However, this is incorrect and usually leads to unwanted complications and problematic infections.
To consider any sexual contact safe, it shouldn’t contain any form of exchange of fluids between partners. These fluids are semen, blood, and vaginal fluids. Besides protection, safe sex practices can boost the trust levels between you and your partner.
It’s also important to know that even with protection, safe sex might carry a minimal risk. However, this is extremely rare and much better than the complete lack of protection. That’s why some experts prefer to call it “safer sex” to put emphasis on that point.
Currently, the best protection against all kinds of unsafe sex problems is condoms.
Condoms are ideal for vaginal, oral, and anal sex. They act as a physical barrier that prevents the exchange of risk fluids, preventing STDs and unplanned pregnancy.
In addition to condoms, there are diaphragms that prevent semen from passing through the cervix. While they’re great for pregnancy prevention, they don’t protect from STIs.
Unfortunately, there are many people who know little to nothing about safe sex. Additionally, such a topic is a fertile ground for myths. Here are some valuable tips that you should know:
- Contraceptive pills will only prevent pregnancy but don’t protect from STDs and STIs
- If you’re going to apply a lubricant, make sure it’s water-based. Other types can ruin the condom
- Any toys or tools used while sex should be covered with condoms too
- Never take off a condom until the very end of the sexual intercourse
- Even pre-ejaculatory fluids can transmit STIs
- Better safe than sorry, there’s nothing embarrassing about buying condoms
- Condoms shouldn’t ruin the mood or reduce pleasure. Make sure you’re using condoms of the right size and style for maximum sensation and safety
- If you’re allergic to latex condoms, you can try the hypoallergenic polyurethane ones
- Always check the expiry date on the condom and use a freshly opened one every time
Erectile dysfunction is a sexual disorder that inhibits the ability to develop and maintain a firm erection for sexual intercourse.
In addition to the inability to get or keep an erection. Impotence can also cause a lack of sexual desire in general.
It’s ok to have trouble with erections from time to time. In the case of erectile dysfunction, these symptoms are more persistent and almost permanent. It can cause stress, affect sexual confidence, and lead to relationship problems.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a definite cause for erectile dysfunction. The reason behind that is the complexity of the male arousal process.
For a man to become sexually aroused and erect, a lot of organs and hormones take part in the process. These parts include hormones, nerves, muscles, circulation, and the brain. A problem with any of these parts can sometimes be enough to cause erectile dysfunction.
However, scientists classify the causes of impotence into physical and physiological causes. In some situations, a combination of these disorders can lead to erectile dysfunction. Let’s have a quick look at them.
Since an erection requires blood to rush through the spongy tissue of the penis, heart problems usually result in erectile dysfunction.
Also, high levels of cholesterol and blood pressure can lead to blood delivery problems. For example, clogging of blood vessels, which is known as “atherosclerosis”.
The older the male, the harder to get and maintain an erection. Multiple studies found that erectile dysfunction has a direct correlation with aging.
Obese patients are always at high risk of erectile dysfunction. According to a study, 79% of males diagnosed with erectile dysfunction were overweight.
The study revealed that the higher fat percentage in the body leads to lower production of male sex hormones. As you already know, they’re essential for the reproductive organs to operate properly.
Erectile dysfunction is one of the most popular complications of diabetes in men.
Similarly, relationship problems can also be a barrier between you and a healthy erection. As a result, they can cause or worsen the case in erectile dysfunction patients.
Moreover, insomnia and lack of sufficient sleep time can cause erectile problems.
There are some other conditions that can cause erectile dysfunction. These include:
- Nervous system disorders like multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s Disease
- The use of certain medications, such as diuretics
- Smoking, substance abuse, and alcoholism
- Peyronie’s Disease (a scar in the spongy tissue of the penis)
- Some surgical operations especially in the pelvic area
- Prostate related disorders
A lot of men are embarrassed about discussing sexual problems with their doctors. However, it’s the best way to diagnose and treat the problems.
In fact, many erectile dysfunction cases might be due to temporary problems, so you shouldn’t worry about it that much.
- Sildenafil (Viagra)
- Tadalafil (Cialis)
- Vardenafil (Levitra).
However, these are prescription-only drugs, so a doctor needs to check your health before prescribing any of them. It’s crucial that you don’t try any medication without consulting your doctor first.
Unfortunately, there aren’t medical guidelines or sufficient evidence suggesting that dietary supplements can treat erectile dysfunction.
Premature ejaculation is another common sexual disorder that a lot of men are concerned about. Despite the lack of data, there are claims that 3 to 4 out of 10 men have experienced premature ejection at some point in their life.
It happens when a man ejaculates too soon and much earlier than he or his partner desires. However, many medical guidelines time it at less than one minute from the beginning of the intercourse.
What makes it a problem is that after ejaculation, a man loses his erection, which stops sex. Similar to impotence, this can cause problems in and out of bed.
The main reason behind these problems is the lack of satisfaction from both sides.
The main symptom of premature ejaculation is the lack of control over your timing. The problem can happen while having sex or when you’re alone.
Unfortunately, science is yet to know the exact cause of premature ejaculation. Some doctors used to think that it might be only psychological. However, others think that some factors can play a role in the disorder.
Despite the lack of information about the actual cause of premature ejaculation, a lot of studies tested the role of psychology in the problem.
For example, the Department of Psychology at Utah University found that anxiety might have a variable role in premature ejaculation. Anxiety can be in many forms, including:
- Lack of sexual experience
- Sense of guilt
- Worrying about the physical image
- Worrying about sexual performance
In fact, there are claims that worrying about early climax can cause premature ejaculation as well.
Moreover, men who are suffering from any form of erectile dysfunction tend to rush through sexual intercourse. This can also form a mental pattern of quick ejaculation, which is hard to change.
In fact, this is why rushing in masturbation might also cause premature ejaculation. Yes, normal masturbation itself shouldn’t cause premature ejaculation, which is also a myth.
In another study, there was a relationship between depression and premature ejaculation. The research included 18,000 men of different ages.
The results showed that depression might increase the risk of premature ejaculation. However, the evidence wasn’t enough to call depression a definite cause of premature ejaculation.
Despite the lack of definitive evidence, there are some studies that establish a connection between premature ejaculation and physical problems.
For example, the disturbance in brain chemistry might lead to premature ejaculation. These brain chemicals are known as “neurotransmitters”.
The most commonly related one of them is serotonin, which is responsible for the feeling of happiness and well-being. A lot of studies found a direct relation between serotonin and early climax. Doctors also believe that some premature ejaculation cases come from genetic disorders.
Some inflammation and infections, especially in the prostate and urinary tract, can affect sexual health in general. As a result, they might also produce some kind of premature ejaculation. However, these ones usually go away once you treat the causing factor.
Although science doesn’t know much about the causes, there are some possible treatments for premature ejaculation.
There are some common treatments for the case. These treatments include topical anesthetics, behavioral solutions, and psychological counseling.
Recently, many pharmacological companies announced several drugs that can help in treating the problem.
For example, dapoxetine, which increases the serotonin in the brain. However, the drug is still in human trials in the US.
What Are The Most Common STI / STDs?
There are about 27 different STDs that are identified by medicine. However, some of them are extremely rare. Here are some of the most common STDs that safe sex practice should protect you from.
Usually, chlamydia doesn’t produce visible symptoms in men. However, Gonorrhea can cause some pain while urination with pus-like discharge from the opening of the penis.
In men, trichomoniasis causes similar symptoms, such as burning after ejaculation and urination. It’s also characterized by itching. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics or antiprotozoal agents to get rid of these infections.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a true cure for these STDs, so they can be lifelong diseases.
A Note on STD Testing
As you can see, different types of STDs are caused by different agents. STD testing is important to detect infection and prevent them from spreading as well. Here’s how you can test for these STDs.
- Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: through swaps inside the penis and urine tests
- HIV and Hepatitis: usually a blood test
- Syphilis: through swabs of the sores
- Herpes: doctors use a blood test to diagnose them
There you have it. A complete guide to men’s sexual health and fertility. As you can see, there’s a lot of false information out there that isn’t based on any approved studies or clinical trials.
In such an important topic like your reproductive and sexual health. It’s important that you always check your facts and avoid the following myths.
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