Dad Facts: What Men Need to Know About Their Fertility

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SUNDAY, June 23, 2024 (HealthDay News) — When a couple can't get pregnant, the focus is often on the prospective mom, but that needs to change, a Houston urologist says.

"Both partners need evaluation," said Dr. Larry Lipschultz, a professor of urology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "With fertility, you can't finger point. It's not a male or female problem as much as it needs to be considered a couple's problem."

Men who are infertile have no way to know unless they've had specific surgeries or an accident involving their testicles. The only sign is being unable to get a woman pregnant. A fertility test can confirm this.

Once a man hits his 50s, his fertility drops. It's not as dramatic a decline as that which a woman experiences during menopause -- rather, it happens little by little. 

Guys who are obese or who put on weight may also have trouble producing enough sperm. A doctor might recommend losing weight, to boost production of male hormones. A diet rich in foods containing antioxidants may also be suggested.

"The issue with obesity is that fat metabolizes testosterone to estrogen, which is bad for sperm production," Lipschultz said in a Baylor news release. "Generally, trying to maintain a good bodyweight through exercise and proper diet is going to be helpful."

Keep in mind that the testosterone should not come from an outside source. Men who take outside testosterone in any form are turning off the hormones that promote sperm production. Men who need testosterone should be under a specialist's care. 

Men looking to become fathers should avoid direct heat to the testicles, including a cell phone in a pocket, hot tubs or heating pads. 

They should also be aware that chemotherapy, radiotherapy and drugs called biologics can tamp down sperm production. 

Men who have fertility issues are also at higher risk for other conditions, including cancer and premature death.

"If you're in the reproductive age group and you have some type of problem that requires medication, check with your physician that this is not going to hurt your sperm production," Lipschultz advised. "If you are in a situation that this is going to be permanent, make sure you bank your sperm."

Men with fertility concerns can get a semen analysis. This will show whether they have enough sperm and whether they move sufficiently to reach an egg. Newer tests can also see if they are capable of fertilization. At-home tests may be misleading.

Men who are having reproductive issues should visit a urologist who specializes in male reproductive health.

"Women have a doctor from their teenage years for the most part for menstrual health, birth control and more," Lipschultz said. "Men often don't regularly see a physician, and by the time we see them for urologic problems, reproductive problems or men's health in general, it may be too late."

Men, he concluded, need to take better care of themselves.

SOURCE: Baylor College of Medicine, June 20, 2024, news release

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