How common is male infertility?
Getting pregnant involves two people and problems involving the sperm are quite common: in about half of couples struggling to get pregnant the quality of the sperm will be an important factor.
There is a tendency to focus on the female partner because women are born with all of their eggs and the biological clock is ticking: the number and quality of the eggs are in decline.
Men make new sperm (with fresh genes / DNA) every 90 days. This means men can continue to have children for much longer. Male fertility does decline with age but sperm can still produce healthy babies for men in their 60s and 70s.
What is a normal sperm 'count'?
15 million sperm per ml of ejaculate; more than 40% must be moving; at least 4% must be normally-shaped
How often should we be having sex?
It is difficult to have too much sex when you are trying to get pregnant. It is important not to stop ejaculating for long periods of time (more than 6 days) even if you are not having intercourse. This makes sure that old sperm do not stay behind for too long and prevent the new healthy ones from working well. It is reasonable to try to have sex 2-3 times per week when you are trying to get pregnant. However, it is also important not to put yourself or your partner under extra pressure as this can be counterproductive to your performance and be a strain on your relationship.
What can I do to improve my fertility?
Sperm quality is affected by lifestyle. In general, men should aim for a normal body weight for their height. Excess weight gain in men is associated with higher oestrogen hormone levels in the body, rather than testosterone, which is required for good sperm production. Other things to consider:
- alcohol intake should be minimal.
- no cigarettes should be consumed.
- recreational drugs should be avoided absolutely.
- performance enhancing drugs from the gym should never be used: taking testosterone supplements turns off the internal testosterone production which is essential to produce sperm. Sometimes the effect can be very long-lasting or non-reversible.
- a healthy diet containing lots of plant-based foods cooked from scratch is advised. Minimal processed foods should be eaten. Nuts containing selenium and zinc (e.g.brazil nuts and walnuts) are a handy snack.
- regular moderate exercise is good.
- a multivitamin supplement may be helpful.
- sleep and stress-relief (e.g.sport / exercise) are vital.
I am worried about my sex life... what should I do?
You should discuss your concerns with your GP, first of all. If you think something might be wrong it is usually quite easy to work out if that is the case or not. Erection problems are much more often due to anxiety or other stresses in your life than any physical problem. However, it is good to rule out anything serious. In addition, the problem can be helped quite easily with medication which is often only needed for a short period of time. The first hurdle to overcome is to talk to a doctor about it.
Leeds Fertility has the expertise of a urology specialist, Mr Oliver Keyes who provides assessment and advice for men with specific issues.
Read out patient information leaflet about Semen Analysis.