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
Acute epididymitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114552/Acute-epididymitis. Updated January 26, 2017. Accessed March 3, 2017.
Bener A, Al-Ansari AA, Zirie M, Al-Hamaq AO. Is male fertility associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus? Int Urol Nephrol. 2009;41(4):777-784.
Fode M, Krogh-Jespersen S, Brackett NL, Ohl DA, Lynne CM, Sønksen J. Male sexual dysfunction and infertility associated with neurological disorders. Asian J Androl. 2012;15(1):61-68.
Infertility in men. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902812/Infertility-in-men. Updated February 26, 2016. Accessed March 3, 2017.
Male infertility. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/male-infertility. Updated March 2014. Accessed March 3, 2017.
Male infertility. Planned Parenthood website. Available at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/men/male-infertility. Accessed March 3, 2017.
Male infertility. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed March 3, 2017.
Sallmén M, Sandler DP, Hoppin JA, Blair A, Baird DD. Reduced fertility among overweight and obese men. Epidemiology. 2006;(5):520-523.
The semen analysis. Resolve—National Infertility Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed March 26, 2015.
Varicocele. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated January 29, 2016. Accessed March 3, 2017.
Last reviewed March 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 3/3/2017
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.