Other factors

Apart from age, consumption, weight, smoking, alcohol and timing of sex, there are a number of other factors that impact on fertility and your chance of having a healthy baby. The evidence of their impact on fertility varies. Here’s a list of some common ones…

Attention to lifestyle can improve fertility and your chance of having a healthy baby.

Nutrition

For tips on how to eat a ‘balanced diet’ and find guidelines on how much exercise you need to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight range visit the LiveLighter website.

Heat

Men, keep your testes – yes, that’s your “balls” – cool if you want to father a child in the near future. Raising the body’s temperature, particularly the temperature around the testes, can reduce sperm production.

Avoid hot baths, spas and saunas and sitting with your computer on your lap. There’s no clear evidence that wearing tight underwear affects a man’s fertility but best wear boxer shorts to be on the safe side.

See Andrology Australia’s website for more information on male infertility and how to prevent it.

Drugs

The use of drugs should be avoided when planning a pregnancy.

Anabolic steroids taken for body building or competitive sports cause men’s testicles to shrink in size and sperm production to stop. They can also be harmful to general health for men who have normal testosterone levels. If you’re trying to have a baby, you should stop taking anabolic steroids. See Your sperm – and how to look after them.

Recreational drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy, have also been shown to affect male and female fertility. There is some proof that marijuana use can lower a man’s sperm count, decrease the volume of his semen and reduce sperm motility (movement ability), which can prevent the sperm fertilising the egg. Drug use can also affect a man’s testosterone levels and sex drive.

Sports and recreation injury

Being hit or kicked in the balls is never pleasant, but it can also affect your fertility. Make sure to keep your testes well protected.

For more on how to look after your sperm, read Andrology Australia’s Your sperm – and how to look after them.

Cycling and fertility

For most men, riding a bike is unlikely to cause any fertility issues. An active lifestyle is important to good health and fertility.

However, if you’re a serious long-distance cyclist, triathlete or iron man enthusiast, evidence suggests that prolonged time in the saddle may affect fertility. This may be due to irritation and compression caused by friction of the testes against the saddle, or tight lycra, which raises the temperature around the testes and can decrease blood flow to your genitals.

So  invest in a good saddle and padded shorts and make sure to take regular breaks from the saddle.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly gonorrhoea and chlamydia, can affect the fertility of both women and men.

There’s only one way to avoid a sexually transmitted infection. Actually, there are two but the first involves not having sex at all. So, it’s better to have safe sex by using a condom or dental dam. When you’re ready to have a family, both parties involved can be tested for STIs, so you don’t risk passing on an infection to a partner or child.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a very common bacterial infection that can affect any person who has unprotected sex.

It’s estimated that at least 75 per cent of women and 25 per cent of men will experience no symptoms. As symptoms of chlamydia can be similar to those of other conditions such as thrush and cystitis, it may also be overlooked. If symptoms do occur they can include:

  • discharge from the penis
  • burning or pain when urinating
  • itching or irritation around the opening of the penis
  • pain or soreness in the testicles.

Chlamydia causes inflammation of the urethra. If left untreated chlamydia can progress to the epididymis (the tubes which carry sperm). This can cause pain, scarring and, rarely, fertility problems.

How is chlamydia treated?

Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics.

Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that usually affects the genital area, although the throat or anus may also be affected. Gonorrhoea can affect both men and women and is easily transmitted during vaginal intercourse. It can also be transmitted during anal or oral sex.

Gonorrhoea symptoms for men

Gonorrhoea commonly infects the inside of the penis (the urethra). Symptoms may include:

  • a burning sensation while urinating or passing water
  • a white or yellow pus-like discharge from the penis
  • swelling and pain in the testicles, which can occur if the gonorrhoea infection goes untreated.

In a small percentage of men there are no symptoms at all.

How gonorrhoea can affect men’s fertility

Gonorrhoea, can damage the epididymis (the tubes which carry sperm), preventing sperm from passing from the testes, or ‘balls’ into the ejaculate.

How is gonorrhoea treated?

Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics.

For more information about sexually transmitted infections, tests and treatment, contact a sexual health clinic in your state.

Men can find more information about sexually transmitted infections and men’s fertility at Andrology Australia’s website.

The Better Health website also has information about sexually transmitted infections.

Environmental toxins

Scientists have begun to investigate the effects that certain chemicals have upon our overall health. Research has established that some chemicals in the environment can affect reproductive health.

An environmental toxin, scientifically known as an endocrine disruptor, is a chemical that interferes with the hormones within our body. Both male and female bodies are affected by these toxins and research suggests that the toxins can affect many areas of our fertility. For example a man’s sperm quality can increase a couple’s time to pregnancy.

So what chemicals should we look out for and where are they found? This is tricky, as new research is constantly being published, adding to the list of harmful chemicals. Some examples are BPA (bisphenol-A), PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls), phthalates and DDT and they can be found in plastic drink bottles and food containers and cosmetics (hair products, make up and perfume). These chemicals may also be found in household products (surface cleaners and disinfectants) and pesticides.

It is difficult to avoid daily chemicals completely however you can make a conscious effort to reduce your exposure by drinking out of glass bottles as often as possible, microwaving food in ceramics as opposed to plastic, reading the labels on products and washing your fruit and vegetables before consuming.

Although there is an emerging body of scientific literature on this topic, it’s important to remember that so far, research still cannot produce any concrete date. Chemicals in our society are hard to pinpoint due to the cocktail of chemicals we are exposed to everyday. But it’s best to be aware of the potential threat these chemicals pose.

For a more detailed explanation of how environmental toxins can affect our fertility, visit

http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/scientific-statements/edcs

Read the Fertility Coalition partner Andrology Australia’s booklet Your sperm – and how to look after them.

Genetics

Fertility can be impacted by a range of genetic abnormalities.The Murdoch Children Research Institute provides comprehensive information, alongside a list of experts to contact for more information. https://www.mcri.edu.au/research/themes/genetics/genetic-health-research-blc

The most common genetic cause of infertility in men is Klinefelter’s syndrome.

Cancer treatment

Cancer treatment can affect a person’s fertility.

To find out how, and ways to preserve your sperm, refer to ‘Cancer Treatment’ and ‘Storing sperm for later’ in the Fertility Coalition partner Andrology Australia’s booklet Your sperm – and how to look after them.

For more information about oncofertility – options for preserving fertility for people with cancer, visit the Cancer and fertility section of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) website.

Surgery and sickness

Severe illness or a surgical procedure, especially those involving a general anaesthetic can impact your sperm (at least in the short-term).

 

Read the Fertility Coalition partner Andrology Australia’s booklet Your sperm – and how to look after them for more information.

Myth conception

The myth:

"Gonorrhoea doesn’t affect a man’s fertility."

The truth:

Gonorrhoea can reduce men’s fertility.

Gonorrhoea can damage the epididymis (the tubes where sperm is stored), preventing sperm from passing from the testes, or ‘balls’, into the ejaculate.

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