Dr. Marianne J. Legato — Gender Medicine Expert and UpSpringMedical Advisor — recently shared with BuzzFeed Parents some surprising facts about male infertility you probably did not know.
1. Retrograde ejaculation — where semen goes into the bladder instead of out of the penis — is a very real thing.
Diabetes and some medications can cause this condition, which, as you can imagine, affects a man’s fertility.
2. A loss of smell can be a sign of infertility.
Loss of smell is associated with Kallmann syndrome — a genetic disorder that prevents a person from starting or fully completing puberty. If left untreated most people become infertile.
3. Overweight men tend to have lower testosterone levels, poor sperm quality, and reduced fertility.
Also, the more overweight a man is, the more it affects his fertility. For every 20 pounds overweight a man is, it increases his odds of infertility by 10%.
4. Depression or emotional stress can impair a man’s fertility.
5. Men who chew betel nuts — which are popular in Taiwan and other parts of Asia — tend to have offspring with a significant number of developmental disabilities.
6. A loss of facial or body hair can also be a sign of conditions that impair fertility.
7. Love to spend a long time in the hot tub? It can impair fertility because overheating the scrotum inhibits sperm production and quality.
8. Your fertility can be affected by the lifestyle of your grandparents.
For example, one Swedish study found that a paternal grandfather who’d overeaten during the slow growth period that precedes puberty had an impact on his grandson’s health.
9. You probably had an idea that smoking wasn’t great for fertility. But did you know that even second-hand smoke exposure can reduce fertility? It’s true.
Excessive alcohol consumption is also bad for a man’s fertility.
10. Making sure you get enough Vitamin E can increase fertility.
Over 75% of men don’t meet the recommended requirement of Vitamin E, which — along with Vitamin C, zinc, folic acid, and lycopene — mitigate damage to sperm.
11. The most common reversible cause of infertility? A varicocele, which is a swelling of veins that supply the testis. It can be surgically treated.
12. Having athlete’s foot could potentially impair your fertility. That’s because antifungal drugs can be associated with lower production of sperm.
13. Some factors that impair fertility only impact the offspring of one sex. For example, men who smoked at a very early age (like before age 11) see adverse affects in their sons, but not their daughters.
14. Normally, antibodies fight things like bacteria and viruses, but there are some antibodies that actually attack sperm.
Anti-sperm antibodies aren’t common, but exist. Infections in the prostate, or an injury to the testicles, can cause them.
Dr. Marianne Legato, Professor Emerita of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University is an internationally known academic physician, author, lecturer, and specialist in gender-specific medicine. She is founding member of the International Society for Gender Medicine and also the founder and director of The Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University and its next iteration, The Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine. These enterprises are the first collaborations between academic medicine and the private sector focused solely on gender-specific medicine: the science of how normal human biology differs between men and women and of how the diagnosis and treatment of disease differs as a function of gender and sex. Her ground breaking textbook on Gender-and Sex Specific Medicine has been published in 2017 in the 3rd edition.
She has published extensively on Gender and Sex Specific Medicine, both scientifically and for the lay public. She is also the founding editor of the journal Gender Medicine, and the Journal Gender and Genome, published for the scientific community. In 1992, Dr. Legato won the American Heart Association’s Blakeslee Award for the best book written for the lay public on cardiovascular disease. She is a practicing internist in New York City and has been listed each year in New York Magazine’s “Best Doctors” since the feature’s inception in 1993.