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Do's and Don'ts on Male Fertility

June 2, 2023

A happy man embraces his romantic partner on the beach.

Sure, some men have fathered a child well into their 80s. But these rarities mask a narrative about male infertility which, according to the National Institutes of Health, is on the rise in the United States.

There are multiple factors at play including higher rates of obesity, poor lifestyle and environmental factors, the American diet including processed foods, and trends to delay parenthood. Regardless, it’s important to know that male infertility many times begins with a man’s everyday choices.

Healthy Sperm Production

Men who have been trying to conceive for more than six months should consider an evaluation with a male infertility specialist — particularly if the fear and frustration of infertility has led to a decline in sexual function, sex drive, and erections.

“Men don’t often think about sperm abnormalities until they have fertility concerns,” says urologist Joseph Caputo, MD, clinical lead of men’s health and male infertility at Atlantic Health System. “Infertility is not just about taking a pill to boost sperm production. These discussions are very sensitive and personal. I convey to my patients that we should look at the full picture of their overall health and how medical issues, lifestyle, exercise, and diet all impact sexual and reproductive function.”

Dr. Caputo explains that most men are hesitant to talk about sexual function, so their female partners are typically the ones encouraging a visit. He sees men of all ages, but most men seeking fertility care are between the ages of 18 to 45. Many of these men are concerned with their testosterone levels and sperm counts, and he’s working to normalize the conversation about men’s reproductive health.

If you are dealing with male infertility, here are a few small lifestyle modifications that can make a big difference in boosting the production of healthy sperm.

The Do's

  • Exercise: Moderate physical activity three times a week to increase heart rate and metabolic expenditure
  • Diet: Eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and antioxidant-rich foods, avoid processed foods
  • Weight: Maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI)
  • Protection: Limit sexual partners and use condoms to avoid sexually transmitted diseases
  • Destress: Find ways to relax and minimize the stressors in your life

The Don’ts

  • Don't smoke: Smoking cigarettes can lead to low sperm counts
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Heavy drinking can reduce testosterone and sperm production
  • Avoid extreme temperatures: Extended exposure to extreme heat impacts sperm health (laptop, sauna, hot tub)
  • Eliminate toxins: Exposure to pesticide and toxic chemicals can affect sperm quantity and quality
  • Understand medication side effects: Certain medications can contribute to fertility issues, as can chemotherapy and radiation therapy

Dr. Caputo cautions that a common misconception is the belief that testosterone replacement improves fertility. However, most forms of testosterone supplementation actually do just the opposite. Testosterone replacement alters the hormones that are involved in sperm production as well and most men on testosterone replacement therapy have very low sperm counts.

“I take a whole-person approach,” says Dr. Caputo. “There is ample data that shows healthy dietary and lifestyle changes have significant effects on testosterone and sperm production. When we look at the big picture of what may be contributing to a man’s infertility, we can identify modifiable risks and most men are willing to make some changes. When they do, we see some great success stories. Of course, modifiable risks are not always the cause. I evaluate all my patients for genetic and anatomical causes for male infertility as well.”


Be Proactive About Your Health

To stay safe and healthy, it's good to have a primary care provider who knows and understands your health history and wellness goals.

  • Men's Health