Health Information

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Infertility in Men

Lifestyle factors can influence male fertility, and your doctor may suggest that you initiate lifestyle changes when you are trying to conceive.

  • Change the timing of sexual activity and avoid using lubricants containing spermicides.
  • Avoid using tobacco, marijuana, anabolic steroids, and “recreational” drugs.
  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking antioxidants.
  • Exercise moderately, but not excessively.
  • Avoid testicular injury in sporting events.
  • Avoid exposure to excessive heat (steam rooms, saunas, hot tubs).
  • Wear looser fitting shorts and pants.
  • If you bicycle, try using a softer seat.
  • Learn positive ways to manage stress.

Sperm quality declines if ejaculation occurs more frequently than every 48 hours or less frequently than every five days. Your chances of attaining pregnancy are also improved if sexual intercourse occurs a day or so before ovulation. This gives sperm time to travel up the female reproductive tract and be in the fallopian tube—where fertilization takes place—when the egg gets there during ovulation. Many lubricants contain spermicidal ingredients, so you should avoid using these when trying to conceive.

The toxins in cigarette smoke reduce sperm count and motility and increase the number of abnormal sperm. Smoking also adversely affects hormone levels and may affect the cells in the testes that produce testosterone. Like cigarette smoking, use of marijuana also can adversely affect sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology. It also reduces plasma testosterone levels. Anabolic steroids are sometimes used to increase muscle mass or strength, but they also influence production of reproductive hormones and can reduce fertility. Use of cocaine also negatively affects sperm parameters as well as the ability of sperm to penetrate cervical mucus. Opiates (heroin, morphine) may reduce fertility in men by altering hormone production.

Although moderate alcohol consumption does not affect male fertility, excessive alcohol intake alters hormone levels and reduces sperm count and sperm quality.

High body fat can alter hormone metabolism. If you are overweight, consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian to find out what weight is healthy for you and to get help in attaining it.

Antioxidants, like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, protect the body from "free radicals," which are produced during normal body functions. It is believed that these free radicals can cause harm to the body, possibly causing damage to sperm cells. For some men, taking a daily antioxidant supplement may help improve their fertility. If you're interested in taking antioxidants, talk to your doctor.

Moderate exercise increases sperm production and may have beneficial effects on fertility. However, excessive exercise, such as that performed by long-distance runners, reduces sperm production.

The testicles are easily damaged during vigorous sporting events or fights. These injuries can cause inflammation that reduces the blood supply to the testicles, which can permanently damage sperm-producing cells.

Some evidence suggests that heat exposure, such as occurs when using a sauna or hot tub, may affect sperm quantity and quality.

Underwear and clothing that is tight and constricting may reduce blood flow in the groin and adversely affect sperm production.

Certain bicycle seats may cause circulatory and neurologic damage in the groin that can affect erectile function.

Psychological stress can be a positive or negative force in your life, depending on how you deal with it. High levels of stress hormones interfere with many physiologic processes and may influence your ability to attain conception. To help reduce mental and emotional stress in your life, consider learning relaxation exercises, yoga or tai chi, or talking to a counselor about problems or stressful relationships in your life. Talk to your doctor about which stress management options may be best for you, and request a referral to a stress management program.

Revision Information

  • Infertility. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated August 23, 2012. Accessed September 14, 2012.

  • Male infertility. American Society for Reproductive Medicine website. Available at: http://www.asrm.org/topics/detail.aspx?id=1331. Accessed September 14, 2012.

  • Male risks. Protect your fertility website. Available at: http://www.protectyourfertility.org/malerisks.html. Accessed September 14, 2012.

  • RESOLVE. The National Infertility Association website. Available at: http://www.resolve.org. Accessed September 14, 2012.

  • Reproductive health. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/repro. Accessed September 14, 2012.

  • 2/14/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Showell M, Brown J, Yazdani A, Stankiewicz M, Hart R. Antioxidants for male subfertility. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(1):CD007411.