How Men Can Boost Their Fertility For Better Odds Of Conception - Exclusive

While in theory, the idea of trying to get pregnant sounds like a whole lot of fun (wink, wink), for some couples it can start feeling a little more like one of the Sphinx's riddles — difficult to navigate and laden with pressure and high stakes. In the U.S., one in eight couples have difficulty conceiving (per Fertility Answers). While fertility experts agree that only 30% of these cases can be attributed to a complication in the woman alone, society often seems to be in silent agreement that fertility issues start and end with women.

This unspoken consensus seems to point toward a gender bias within the medical field. A 2006 review published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly found that out of 157 articles published on the topic of fertility, only one was centered around men. Adding to this, a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports that in federally funded clinics that offer family planning services, 81% of them educate women on preconception care, while only 38% of them provide the same education opportunities to men.

Health Digest sat down for an exclusive interview with Dr. Justin Dubin — a urologist and men's health specialist practicing in South Florida, and co-host of the men's health podcast "Man Up: A Doctor's Guide to Men's Health" — who gave us the scoop on the stigma surrounding male fertility and offered advice on how men can boost their fertility, giving them and their families the best chance at conception.

Shifting the focus

Well aware of the societal bias surrounding fertility struggles, Dr. Dubin wants men to understand their role in family planning. "When it comes to fertility and family planning, it's important for guys to remember that it takes two to tango," he asserts. While there are certainly times that fertility issues solely fall on the female, Dr. Dubin points out, "In couples struggling with fertility, 50% of the time there is a male factor component to the couple's fertility problems. In fact, 30% of the time, a couple's fertility issues are strictly due to the male! Despite these statistics, there continues to be an unfair focus and pressure on female partners when it comes to family planning issues."

When it comes to examining why a couple is having trouble conceiving, Dr. Dubin notes, "Women are often the only ones to see a doctor for a fertility workup. Guys need to know that if their partner is getting evaluated for fertility, they should too. Not only does it take some pressure off your partner, there is a chance that getting evaluated by a urologist can help you achieve your family planning goals. It's time we shift the focus of fertility away from women and back to the couple as a whole," he declares, adding with encouragement, "Guys, see a doctor!"

The stigma of infertility in men and how to get tested

Women aren't the only ones who face stigmas surrounding infertility. "Most men don't like seeing a doctor, especially when it comes to discussing topics like fertility that they often associate with masculinity," says Dubin. "Fortunately, the fertility workup is fairly straightforward. Typically, when you see your doctor there are three components to a male fertility workup." He explains that it starts with semen analysis. "A semen analysis is a test in which you provide a semen sample. It is the gold standard for a male fertility evaluation. Basically, we look at the amount and quality of the sperm in your sample to assess your fertility status." For men still intimidated by the process, Dr. Dubin offers, "Based on both your comfort level and access to facilities, the sample can be collected either at home or in a lab."

Next, Dr. Dubin explains that blood work is useful. "Like female fertility, there are certain sex hormones that play a role in male fertility and sperm creation. Testosterone is an example of a common hormone we look at." Men should also get a physical exam, and give their doctors a detailed medical history, while they're at it. "Male fertility can be impacted by so many different things that it is important for your doctor to hear your story," Dr. Dubin says. "In addition to a good history, getting a physical exam helps with the big picture of what is going on."

Expert tips on boosting male fertility

When it comes to male fertility, it's not as simple as playing with the cards you were dealt. "Male fertility is interesting because lifestyle choices can actually make a big difference on some men's fertility. When it comes to overall health, it is important to remember: what's good for your heart is good for your parts. Men who smoke cigarettes, are overweight, inactive, and eat poorly are more likely to have low testosterone and fertility issues. Eating healthy, exercising, and losing weight can help improve fertility." While low testosterone can play a role in the struggle toward conception, Dr. Dubin reveals, "One important medication that can compromise your fertility is taking testosterone. If you are considering having kids at any point, I would not recommend starting without talking with a doctor."

While we may have assumed this one was an old wives' tale, Dr. Dubin clarifies, "If you are actively trying to conceive, you should avoid exposure to wet heat, [like] saunas and hot tubs. The heat can create a less favorable environment for sperm and temporarily cause a decline in sperm numbers." Last but not least, let's talk lube. "If you are a couple who uses lubrication during intercourse, the kind of lubricant that you use can make a difference. Most lubricants do not provide favorable environments for sperm and can potentially compromise fertility. When it comes to lubricants that are good for family planning, we recommend using Pre-Seed."

Finding support at home

Because of the sensitive nature of fertility — especially when it is proving to be an issue — Dr. Dubin stresses the importance of communication between couples. "Fertility is a sensitive topic for men to discuss as most guys associate it with their masculinity and what they consider makes them a man. At the same time, conception and family planning is a two-way street and if there are concerns about their sexual health or fertility status, it is important that their partner talks with them about it. Communication is key for couples struggling with fertility." Offering one final tip to couples who may be having a hard time, Dr. Dubin says, "Focusing on the fact that this is a couple's issue, not a male or female issue, should help relieve specific pressures and should motivate both partners to be active in the process and hopefully each get evaluated." Teamwork makes the baby-dream work!

Want to hear more from Dr. Justin Dubin? Check out his Linktree or visit him on Instagram. To stay up to date on all things related to men's health, listen to his podcast, Man Up.