Factors That Affect Fertility

Men's Issues

About 35 percent of fertility cases can be traced to a problem in the man, and an additional 20 percent to a problem in both partners. The following is a partial list of risk factors that may contribute to male infertility:

  • Being a smoker: Smoking impairs the ability of sperm to move (its motility).
  • Using alcohol: Having more than one or two drinks a day can affect the quality and quantity of sperm, lower testosterone levels, and contribute to erectile dysfunction.
  • Taking illegal drugs: Cocaine or heavy marijuana use may temporarily reduce the number and quality of sperm by as much as 50 percent.
  • Taking prescription drugs: Some medications, such as those for ulcers or psoriasis, can slow or prevent the production of sperm.
  • Being exposed to toxic substances or hazards on the job: Chronic exposure to elements such as lead, cadmium, mercury, hydrocarbons, pesticides, radioactivity, and X-rays may have an impact on sperm count and quality.
  • Exposing genitals to heat: The frequent use of saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, whirlpools, and hot baths can temporarily impair sperm production and reduce sperm count.
  • Having certain conditions or illnesses: Men with a history of prostatitis or genital infection, mumps after puberty, surgery on their hernia, undescended testicles, or scrotal varicose veins (varicocele) may also experience a decrease in fertility.

Sources: MayoClinic.com; RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association; The Couple's Guide to Fertility by Gary S. Berger, MD, Marc Goldstein, MD, and Mark Fuerst (Broadway Books, 2001); National Women's Health Information Center

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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