Male fertility

What is male fertility?

Male fertility refers to a man's ability to produce healthy and viable sperm that can fertilize a woman's egg during sexual intercourse. The process of male fertility begins with the production of sperm in the testicles, where they mature and are stored until ejaculation.

 Understanding what male fertility means is an essential step towards identifying potential problems early on and taking steps towards improving your chances of conception.

Alert: In 20% of the cases male fertility issues lead to problems in pregnancy and in 30 -40% it is the main contributing factor hence it is not something that can be overlooked.

What factors affect male fertility?

Sperm count is one the most important factors when it comes to male fertility and the following factors affect sperm count:


Quantity is an essential factor when it comes to sperm health. The number of sperm cells in a man's semen can significantly determine his fertility potential. A healthy male should have at least 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen. Anything lower than that, and the chances of conception become significantly reduced.


When it comes to determining sperm health, movement is a crucial factor. This refers to how well the sperm can swim and move towards its target - the egg. Sperm with poor motility may struggle to reach the egg, leading to fertility issues.

  • Structure

Normal sperm have oval heads and long tails that help them move forward. However, the shape is not as important as quantity and movement.

  • Age

Age can affect male fertility as well. As men get older, their bodies may produce fewer and less healthy sperms which could lead to infertility issues.

What causes male fertility problems?

Male fertility problems can arise from a variety of factors:

  • Natural factors: As men age, their sperm count decreases, making it more difficult for them to conceive.
  • Lifestyle choices: Certain lifestyle choices can also hurt male fertility. Smoking cigarettes or consuming alcohol in excess can reduce the number and quality of sperm produced by your body. Additionally, being overweight or obese may cause hormonal imbalances that interfere with reproductive health.
  • Medical conditions: such as diabetes, hypertension and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can also lead to male infertility. These conditions may affect hormone levels or damage reproductive organs like the testes.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides and chemicals used in manufacturing processes may also impair male fertility. It's important for men who work in industries where they're exposed to these substances regularly to take appropriate precautions.
  • Genetic factors: In some cases, genetic factors may be responsible for causing male infertility. Certain inherited conditions like Klinefelter syndrome can result in low testosterone levels and decreased sperm production.

 There are many different causes of male infertility - some preventable through lifestyle changes while others require medical intervention. Men experiencing difficulty conceiving should speak with their doctor about possible underlying issues that could be contributing to their problem


How to improve male fertility?

Maintain a healthy weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health, and it can also have a positive effect on sperm quality. Being overweight or underweight can lead to hormonal imbalances that may decrease sperm count and motility. To maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and focus on eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Stay away from processed foods especially those that are high in sugar and fight.

Eat a healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet is not only important for your overall health, but it also plays a crucial role in producing healthy sperm. A well-balanced diet ensures that you consume all the necessary nutrients required to maintain good reproductive health. Food items that can increase your sperm count include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Foods rich in antioxidants
  • Vitamin C, which protects sperm from damage caused by free radicals
  • Whole grains like brown rice and oats
  • Fatty fish like salmon tuna or mackerel
  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • Avoid sugary drinks
  • Exercise regularly

This will not only keep your body weight in check but will also ensure proper hormone balance. Both of which are important for fertility

Things to avoid for fertility

Don't smoke

Smoking is a habit that can negatively affect many aspects of your health, including your sperm quality. Studies have found that men who smoke have lower sperm counts and decreased motility compared to non-smokers. This means it may take longer for them to impregnate their partner or they may face difficulties in conception altogether.

Limit alcohol

 Drinking alcohol has become a social norm in many cultures, but it can have adverse effects on sperm health. While the occasional drink is not likely to harm your fertility, heavy drinking can lead to decreased sperm count and motility.

  • Avoid lubricants during sex.

When it comes to sexual lubricants, not all products are created equal. While they can enhance pleasure and make intercourse more comfortable, some lubricants can harm male fertility. This is because many commercial products contain chemicals that can kill or damage sperm cells. For example, petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) and mineral oil-based lubricants should be avoided during sex because they may interfere with the movement of sperm and block them from reaching their destination.

 Water-based lubricants are generally considered safe for use during sex, but even these products can contain potentially harmful ingredients such as glycerin and propylene glycol. Instead of using store-bought lubes, consider natural alternatives like coconut oil or aloe vera gel which have been shown to promote healthy sperm function without harming your reproductive system.

Talk to a healthcare provider about medications

It is essential to talk to your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking if you are trying to conceive. Certain medications can affect sperm production and quality, leading to fertility issues. 

 Some common culprits include anabolic steroids, antidepressants, antihypertensives, and chemotherapy drugs. However, it is crucial not to stop or change the dosage of any medication without consulting with your doctor first.

  • Watch out for toxins

It's no secret that toxins can hurt our health, but did you know they can also affect sperm quality? Toxins such as pesticides, lead, and mercury can build up in the body over time and damage sperm DNA. This damage can lead to infertility or increase the risk of birth defects. You can avoid toxins by:

  • Eating organic foods whenever possible.
  • Switching to natural cleaning products or making your own using ingredients like vinegar and baking soda is an easy solution. This is because many household cleaning products contain toxins. Many conventional cleaners contain harsh chemicals like ammonia and bleach that release toxic fumes when used. 
  • Opt for natural alternatives to personal care products. This is because certain personal care products contain ingredients like parabens, phthalates, and triclosan and they have been linked to hormonal disruptions and other health issues. 
Prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. They can also have a damaging effect on the quality of sperm. That's why it's important to take steps to prevent STIs if you want healthy sperm such as:

  • Use protection during sex
  • Get tested regularly for STIs and if you do test positive for an STI, seek treatment immediately. Untreated infections can lead to serious complications and may even cause infertility in some cases.

 By taking these simple precautions, you'll be doing yourself a favour and protecting not just your reproductive health but also that of your partner!

Manage stress

Managing stress is an essential factor in producing healthy sperm. Prolonged exposure to stress can lead to hormonal imbalances that negatively impact fertility. Chronic stress also increases the production of cortisol, which can decrease testosterone levels and reduce sperm count. Therefore, it's important for men who are trying to conceive to manage their stress effectively. To manage stress:

  • Practise relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises or meditation. 
  • Regular exercise is another excellent way to reduce stress levels naturally. Physical activity releases endorphins, which are "feel-good" chemicals that help combat the negative effects of stress on the body.
  • Manage workload better. This might involve delegating tasks at work or taking frequent breaks throughout the day.
  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance can be beneficial in managing overall stress levels. 

When should you see a doctor?

If you and your partner have tried to have a baby for a year without using birth control, but haven't been able to get pregnant, you might want to get checked for fertility problems.

Key Takeaway:

  • Male fertility refers to a man's ability to produce healthy and viable sperm that can fertilize a woman's egg during sexual intercourse.
  • Sperm count, movement, and structure, as well as age, affect male fertility. Male fertility problems can arise from natural, lifestyle, medical, environmental, and genetic factors.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly can improve male fertility, while smoking, heavy drinking, and the use of some lubricants during sex can negatively affect it.
  • Men experiencing difficulty conceiving should speak with their doctor about possible underlying issues that could be contributing to their problem.
Frequently asked questions:
  1. What are the 4 main causes of male fertility?
  2. How can you tell if a man is fertile?
  3. How can I test my fertility at home?
    By using at-home tests
Dr Purva Singh
IVF Specialist