Dr. Kevin Doody answers your most commonly-asked questions about male infertility.
June is Men’s Health Month, which focuses on the prevention of many common diseases faced by men throughout their lifetimes.
Compared to other diseases, infertility is often less understood, and may be less frequently discussed. But infertility is experienced by up to 15% of couples in the United States - and for a third of those couples, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine says that male factors play a role.
Dr. Kevin Doody (“Dr. Kevin”), co-founder of CARE Fertility, advises men who are having difficulty conceiving with a female partner to consult with a physician to identify the issue and find a solution.
Here, he answers some frequently asked questions about male infertility and its causes.
What are the signs of male infertility?
Unlike many other conditions, male infertility can’t be diagnosed from any outward symptoms. A sperm test is the only way to truly know.
“Oftentimes, men can have totally normal libido, normal physical characteristics, normal strength, and outwardly look very virile, yet their sperm numbers or sperm function can be decreased,” Dr. Kevin says.
If a couple is having trouble conceiving, it’s important for both partners to be tested to determine the cause so that your doctor can recommend the best treatment plan.
At what age do male fertility issues begin?
“There's really no great or consistent definition for that,” says Dr. Kevin. “But, most medical professionals would consider about age 40 in the male to be advanced paternal age, and that's where we start running into issues both with sperm quality and some risks to the offspring.”
Is there a connection between sexual dysfunction and infertility?
“Like infertility, sexual dysfunction is not uncommon. There are a lot of physical and psychological things that can contribute to decreased libido and erectile dysfunction, and all of those can lead to difficulty getting pregnant,” says Dr. Kevin. “Many guys can benefit from a medical consultation to try to identify the cause and correct it.”
How are male and female infertility issues different?
“Women have all of their eggs manufactured or produced before they're born, but men typically will be producing sperm throughout their lifetime—and this has its advantages and disadvantages,” Dr. Kevin says.
“Guys typically don't run out of sperm, but you can think of sperm production as a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. Ultimately, there can be errors in the genetic sequence in the DNA that can lead to issues and have some potential increase for genetic disorders in offspring. It’s not high, but it's more prevalent as men get older.”
What can men do to increase fertility?
“Part of being fertile is to have intercourse at the right time,” says Dr. Kevin. “If you’re not having intercourse frequently, then have intercourse more frequently—especially during the middle of the cycle.”
However, Dr. Kevin advises against over-planning or withholding from intercourse on specific days just because it’s not the exact ‘perfect’ day.
“You don’t have to have sex on the same day that your wife is ovulating,” he says. “It’s important to know that in general, sperm can survive in the woman’s cervix for three, four, five days. If you’re having intercourse just once a month or every couple of weeks, that probably is not optimal for fertility.”
What’s your best piece of advice for men who are having fertility issues?
Dr. Kevin advises men not to wait if they suspect there may be issues with their sperm count or quality.
“Be proactive and get checked out early,” he says. “If you’re having problems with sexual dysfunction, if your libido has decreased, if you’re fatiguing early, or things seem to have changed, get checked out.”
To speak with one of our fertility specialists and schedule an appointment with CARE Fertility, call 817-540-1157.