Obesity, laptops, and X-rays are just a few of the newly pinpointed reasons why male infertility accounts for 40 percent of fertility problems in couples, according to a men's health article in The Wall Street Journal. Topping the list for causing testosterone trouble? Smoking cigarettes, heavy alcohol drinking, and using marijuana, cocaine, and opioid painkillers can all lower the level of testosterone needed to make sperm or otherwise cut their quantity and quality. So can some commonly prescribed medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach acid, gout, inflammatory bowel disease, enlarged prostates, and baldness.
But as fertility experts attest, even extra testosterone can lower a man's testosterone. Body builders who take testosterone-based anabolic steroids may build muscle, but because the brain is tricked into thinking it has plenty of testosterone, it stops making enough of its own. This can lead to halted sperm production.
Exposure to large amounts of radiation can also make men permanently sterile. "When getting an X-ray of any part of the body, men should always request a lead shield for their testicles," Dr. Goldstein, a fertility expert at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical College, tells The Wall Street Journal.
And when it comes to checking his email, a guy is better off placing his laptop on a table, rather than his lap. Conclusive studies have shown that resting a laptop on the lap can raise temperatures in the scrotum as much as 5 degrees Fahrenheit in an hour, a problem since heating the testicles by even a few degrees can slow down or even stop sperm production.
Men trying to conceive should also avoid hot baths and hot tubs to avoid overheating. But one myth uncovered by The Wall Street Journal? That guys should ditch briefs in favor of boxer shorts. In one study that compared the scrotal temperatures of 97 men wearing either boxers or briefs, researchers found the type of underwear a man wore had little impact on temperature.
Other male fertility foes getting special mention included obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, long-distance cycling, exposure to certain pesticides, groin injury (fertility experts urge men who play sports to always wear a protective cup), and exposure to BPA, the controversial chemical in plastic bottles. Each has been shown to have a negative impact on sperm production.
But there is some good news for men. Most of these problems are reversible. According to Dr. Goldstein, 70 percent of male infertility is treatable and in about 25 percent of cases, it could have been avoided with greater awareness of the lifestyle choices that can harm sperm. If your guy suspects something may be affecting his fertility, a good first stop is the doctor's office for a sperm count.