Three Common Myths About Male Fertility To Stop Believing

Are you and your partner looking to start or expand your family, but having trouble conceiving? You're not alone. Couples that have fertility challenges may seem like a rare thing. But in the United States, 10% to 15% of couples are considered infertile, which is defined as not being able to get pregnant after a year of consistent unprotected sex, according to Mayo Clinic. This can be caused by an issue from one or both partners.

It's a good idea for couples on the baby-making track to seek a fertility specialist if they're not having success after a year. However, men should speak with their health care provider earlier if they have a history of testicular, prostate, or other sexual problems, have undergone treatment for cancer, or have a family history of infertility problems (per Mayo Clinic).

In addition, couples might want to make sure they're not holding on to any misconceptions about conception. Especially when it comes to male fertility, there are some common myths. 

Myth: Sperm count is the only factor in male fertility

Contrary to what you may believe, sperm health is not determined by sperm count alone. Having fewer sperm might mean it takes longer to conceive, but you can still get your partner pregnant unless your sperm count is zero (per Healthline). Other measures of healthy sperm are shape and motility (movement). A closer look shows that DNA methylation, a process involved in sperm alterations, is associated with fertility challenges, fertility specialist Dr. Cleopatra Kamperveen wrote via Mindbodygreen.

Similar to female fertility, male fertility is influenced by overall health. Lifestyle habits known to boost male fertility include maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, limiting alcohol, and managing stress (per Mayo Clinic). You can take other simple steps to help you produce healthy sperm. For example, since heat may impact the testicles' ability to produce sperm, Mayo Clinic advises against the use of saunas and hot tubs. 

Myth: Men don't have a biological clock

We've heard, we get it...women's fertility declines with age. How could we not know this with all the pop culture references to (and panic around) a woman's biological ticking clock? What you may not know is there's a male biological clock, too. Men do in fact produce sperm all their life and can father children well into old age, explains the Washington Post. But that is not the end of the story.

As it is, once a woman reaches 40, the chances of pregnancy are 2% to 3% each month, according to Forbes. As a man gets older, his fertility also decreases, and the chances of his child having neurocognitive problems increases, according to a 2013 study. In fact, the chances of conception after a man turns 40 drops 30% compared to a man younger than 30, even after adjusting for his partner's age, explains a 2000 study. Another study from 2015 showed that as male age increases, semen volume and sperm motility and morphology all decrease significantly.

Myth: Men don't contribute to fertility challenges

Finally, there's the all-too-common misconception that if there's a fertility issue, it's usually because of the woman. After all, they are the ones who will carry the baby. However, one in 25 men will experience infertility issues at some point, with some statistics suggesting that up to 40% of fertility problems are caused by male conditions, the same amount as is caused by female conditions, according to WebMD.

Overall, about 50% of fertility challenges have a male component, with 20% having only a male factor, and 30% having both male and female contributions (per StatPearls).

If you're trying to conceive, living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to promote fertility, whether you are a man or woman. But do not blame yourself or your partner if fertility issues occur. While this can be difficult, it's important to know that some factors, such as genetics, are simply out of your control, notes WebMD.