Behind the Scenes: Maximizing Male Fertility
by Elaine Gottlieb
You may not choose to become a father at aged 77, but from a strictly biological perspective, it is within the realm of possibility. Most men produce sperm for their entire lives.
The male reproductive system is relatively simple. As a result, it generally functions quite efficiently. Sperm are produced in the testicles and stored in tubes called the epididymis. During erection, but before ejaculation occurs, the sperm travel from the epididymis to the vas deferens. During ejaculation, the sperm mixes with other fluids to form semen. Semen is pushed through the urethra and out of the body.
What Can Stand in the Way of Fertility?
Certain medical conditions can interfere with the proper functioning of the reproductive process. They include:
Maintaining Your Fertility
The average male produces 40-300 million sperm per milliliter (mL) of semen. Low sperm counts are not considered a problem until they get as low as 20 million per mL, which is diagnosed as oligospermia. That may still sound like an enormous number, but statistics show that it is more difficult for couples to conceive at this level.
Conception is difficult at low sperm levels, because even at full count, only a fraction of sperm survive the difficult journey from the vagina through the uterus to the fallopian tubes, where conception takes place. The sperm must be strong swimmers. A man can have a low sperm count but still successfully conceive if his sperm have good motility.
Semen analysis can tell you the quantity and quality of your sperm. If your sperm count is critically low, certain medications may stimulate testosterone production and sometimes boost sperm creation.
One way to maintain healthy fertility is to adopt a fertility-friendly lifestyle. This can be done by avoiding smoking and alcohol. You can also increase your physical activity, eat right, and maintain a healthy weight.
The temperature of the testicles is one of the most significant factors in fertility. Testicles do not produce sperm well when the temperature is body temperature or higher. The placement of the testicles a few inches away from the body keeps them cooler than this.
Men who wear tight pants and/or tight briefs, regularly use saunas, jacuzzis, hot tubs, or whirlpools, or even take frequent hot baths, might have lower sperm counts. When you stop these activities or change to looser clothing, it may increase your sperm count.
Other factors that can adversely affect fertility include:
If you and your partner have been trying to conceive for at least one year and are not having success, see your doctor.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Urology Care Foundation
Canadian Urological Association
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Last reviewed March 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 3/3/2017
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