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Lifestyle Factors Effect on Fertility

According to the Male Fertility Study compiled by Norwich Union Healthcare, as many as one in 10 men may be infertile, accounting for approximately one third of all infertility cases. The causes of male infertility include varicocele, genetic factors, injury, age, retrograde ejaculation, and infection, as well as lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and stress. The good news is that most of the following lifestyle factors that cause infertility are not permanent and can be corrected with simple changes.


Consuming large amounts of alcohol can cause a range of problems, from impotence to decreased sperm production. Alcohol is a toxin that can reduce sperm production by killing the sperm-generating (Sertoli) cells in the testicles, and the liver damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption increases the level of estrogen in the body, which can severely suppress sperm production. Men who drink large quantities of alcohol also have problems achieving and maintaining an erection.

A study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine found that male rats given alcohol prior to mating suffered a greatly diminished fertility rate and produced fewer and less viable offspring. These findings suggest that alcohol use by men may be as harmful to fertility as alcohol use by women.

Medications and Drugs

Abuse of drugs such as heroin, amphetamines, cocaine, and PCP has been associated with decreased libido, erectile failure, and ejaculatory problems, as well as altered hormonal production. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, cocaine and heavy marijuana use can temporarily reduce the number and motility of sperm by as much as 50 percent. Anabolic steroids, used by some athletes to build muscle mass, can also significantly reduce sperm production.

Certain over-the-counter and prescription medications may also decrease male fertility. For example, calcium channel blockers, used to control blood pressure in individuals with hypertension, have been shown to interfere with the normal fertilization process by inhibiting the sperm from penetrating the egg. Cimetidine, used to treat stomach ulcers or reflux disease and sold under the brand name Tagamet, may cause increased levels of prolactin, which can affect testicular function, decrease testosterone levels and sexual performance, reduce sperm counts, and result in abnormal sperm.

Certain antipsychotics, antidepressants, and antihypertensives can cause ejaculatory dysfunction. In addition, many antibiotics have been associated with decreased sperm motility and sperm production, including Minocycline, Nitrofurantoins, Macrolides, Aminoglycosides, and Sulfasalazine.

Herbs and Supplements

Certain herbs and supplements can decrease fertility. For example, cotton (Gossypium Herbaceum), St. John's Wort, and Androstenedione can decrease sperm production or kill sperm and should be avoided. If you have any questions about herbs or supplements you are taking, talk to your doctor. Weight Some studies have found an association between obesity in men and infertility. Researchers from Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta report that a high body mass index (BMI) in men correlates with reduced testosterone levels. In this study, testosterone levels were shown to be 24 percent lower in overweight men and 26 percent lower in obese men than in those of normal weight. According to Peter N. Schlegel, MD, chair of the department of urology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York, "Excess fat actually causes the male hormone, testosterone, to be converted into estrogen, and those estrogens decrease stimulation of the testicle." In addition, the scientists believe that excess body fat creates localized heat in the groin area that can boost scrotal temperatures above 96 degrees, damaging the sperm.

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