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    What can impact male fertility?

    On this page
    1. What does it mean to be fertile?
    2. What does it mean to be infertile?
    3. What can cause infertility in men?
    4. Treating male infertility
    5. Conception alternatives
    6. How to naturally increase male fertility

    Reviewed by Dr Bhavini Shah

    Are you currently trying for a baby with your partner, or thinking about starting the process at some point in the future? With regular, unprotected sex there’s a high probability of pregnancy you’ll conceive naturally within one year.

    However, for some couples it can take longer because of an issue with fertility in one or both people. As a man, your fertility can be impacted by lots of things, including short-term issues like stress and drinking alcohol and long-term conditions like a problem with the hormones.

    In this article we’ll look at the simple things you can do to improve your fertility when you’re trying to become a dad.  

    What can impact male fertility

    What does it mean to be fertile?

    Fertility is about your ability to make a baby without medical assistance. In men, fertility is connected to the health and quality of your sperm. Sperm health is determined by three factors:

    • Quantity – the amount of sperm in your semen when you ejaculate. Also known as sperm count.
    • Movement – Sperm need to wriggle and swim to meet and fertilise an egg. 
    • Shape – Sperm need to grow in the right way with a long tail and oval head to help with motility.  

    Sperm needs to be the right shape, mobile and in the right quantity to help your partner get pregnant.

    What does it mean to be infertile?

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) Infertility is when you can’t get pregnant after one year of regular, unprotected sex. Millions of people worldwide experience infertility, you’re not alone. Research shows that one third of infertility cases are caused by issues with male fertility. Both of you should visit your GP to find out if there’s an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. 

    What can cause infertility in men?

    Infertility in men is connected to sperm health. Male infertility can be broadly divided into problems with:

    • Sperm production issues - can result in poor quality sperm or low numbers
    • "Transport" issues - might be due to damaged testicles or the tubes that carry sperm out of the body.  

    “Alcohol, some recreational drugs, anabolic steroids, smoking, being overweight and excessive stress can also affect sperm quality. Lifestyle changes like drinking less alcohol and exercising more can help your fertility to improve.” - Dr Bhavini Shah

    Sperm related issues can be caused by:   


    Some STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or HIV can cause complications such as infertility issues If you’re having unprotected sex. Using condoms and getting regularly tested for STIs can lower your risk of getting an STI.

    If you think you have symptoms of an STI or have a positive STI test result, getting prompt treatment can help you avoid any future complications. 

    Hormone imbalances 

    Sperm production is impacted by hormone levels including the amount of testosterone in the body. Studies have shown a link between testosterone levels and sperm health. If you’re worried about your hormone levels speak to your doctor. You can also check your testosterone levels at home with our men’s health blood test.  

    Illness and disease

    Infections or conditions like cancer can directly affect the male reproductive organs. Causes blockages or inflammation which affect sperm production. You should regularly be checking your testicles for any changes including lumps and speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.  

    Some medicines and treatment

    Medications to treat illnesses and disease can also affect sperm quality. Chemotherapy can damage the testicles and the chemicals involved may reduce sperm production.

    Exposure to radiation or certain chemicals

    If you’re trying to have a baby you should avoid exposure to radiation, pesticides, solvents and some metals as these can affect fertility in men. 


    Injuries to the testicles can damage or block the pipes which carry sperm. This can also disrupt sperm production and growth.

    Recreational drugs and unhealthy lifestyle choices

    Lifestyle factors like drug use and alcohol consumption can affect the health of sperm. These can damage the quality and number of sperm you produce.  

    Treating male infertility

    Learning that you’re infertile can be really upsetting, but it’s important not to lose hope. It may be that your infertility is temporary, caused by medication, stress or an injury that just needs time to heal.  

    If the cause is something more permanent, you may be able to receive treatment to address the problem. 

    Male infertility treatments include:

    Hormone therapy

    Men might be offered hormone therapy such as gonadotrophins which can improve fertility.


    If the epididymis that stores and helps transport sperm is blocked. Surgery can be undertaken to correct a blockage in the tubes that transport sperm out of the testicles. 

    Conception alternatives

    If you're currently struggling with your fertility, know that you’re not alone – around one in seven couples are thought to have trouble getting pregnant. Depending on the reasons and circumstances, there may be conception alternatives that you could explore. 

    Assisted conception could be an option, which includes:

    • IVF - one of your partner’s eggs fertilised with your sperm outside the body, then inserted into the uterus.
    • Intrauterine insemination - your sperm is collected and inserted directly into your partner’s uterus.
    • Sperm donation – receive sperm from a donor to help you have a baby.
    • Adoption
    • Surrogacy  

    Your doctor will be able to advise you on your options and explain the process in more detail. There are plenty of resources available, visit the Fertility Network UK website to learn more and to get support.  

    How to naturally increase male fertility

    If you’re trying to conceive, the first thing to know is that you should be having unprotected sex two to three times a week. It should go without saying, but this is the most important step. 

    Beyond that, there are a few simple lifestyle changes you can make to increase your chance of conceiving quickly.

    Keep your testicles cool

    Ever wondered why your balls hang outside of your body? It’s to keep them cool, which allows them to produce a higher quality of sperm.

    With that in mind, take care not to “overheat” your testicles when you’re trying to conceive:

    • Don't put your laptop directly on your lap 
    • If you work in a hot environment, try to take regular breaks outside 
    • If you sit for long periods, make sure you take breaks to get up and move around 
    • Avoid taking very hot baths or showers, or sitting in hot tubs 
    • Avoid wearing very tight underwear 
    • Avoid cycling for long periods

    Quit smoking 

    There are lots of reasons to quit smoking, and boosting your fertility is just one of them. Not only is smoking known to reduce fertility in both men and women, it’s also a big risk factor for respiratory disease and cot death in newborn babies.

    Cut back on alcohol 

    Enjoying the odd pint or glass of wine isn’t a problem, but if you’re drinking excessively this could have an impact on the quality of your sperm. 

    The current guidance is that men and women should have no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread over at least three days. That equates to about six pints of average strength beer.

    It’s a good idea to have alcohol-free days during the week, and to opt for lower-strength drinks when available. 

    Stay healthy 

    Being overweight or obese (having a BMI of 30 or over) can affect your fertility. In women, being overweight or severely underweight can affect ovulation.

    Weight loss is all about burning more calories than you consume, which means you’ll probably need to make changes to your diet. 

    Healthy eating isn’t just about eating less – it’s also about eating the right kinds of foods:

    • Less salt
    • Less sugar
    • Less saturated fat
    • More veggies
    • More pulses and wholegrain carbs 

    In addition to eating a healthier diet, you’ll want to start exercising regularly. 

    Not only does this help you burn more calories, it’s a great way to improve your sleep, reduce stress and boost your mood. 

    Reduce stress 

    We all experience stress from time to time, but if it’s becoming a daily problem for you, there’s a good chance it will affect your ability to conceive. 

    It’s thought that severe stress:

    • Limits sperm production
    • Impacts your sex drive

    Being stressed can also put strain on a relationship. You and your partner are less likely to be “in the mood”, you may even experience performance anxiety.

    Of course, stress isn’t always easy to combat but a good place to start is pinpointing your triggers. In the short-term, relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation can help you to manage stress, as can regular exercise.

    For more guidance on coping with stress, check out this guide on the Mind website.


    Male infertility goes hand in hand with sperm health which can be affected by a range of different conditions. From STIs to hormone imbalances, the quality of your sperm can influence your chances of being a dad. That’s why it’s important to look after all aspects of your health and speak to your doctor about any worries you may have. In the meantime, you can see how you’re doing with a men’s health blood test as well as look after yourself and partners with regular STI tests.  


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