Fertility Specialists Caution Would-Be Fathers Of Internet Fallacies

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Fertility specialists are cautioning Indiana men striving to become first-time fathers to wade carefully through an abundance of mis-information about male fertility -- fueled in part by an explosion of Internet tips.

"The Internet is a great resource to learn about fertility," said Laura Reuter, M.D., medical director of Midwest Fertility Specialists, the largest single group of reproductive endocrinologists in Indiana. "However, it's also an unending source of urban myths and half-truths, which may be counterproductive to couples attempting to start families."

For example, contrary to what some Web sites such as revolutionhealth.com claim, bike riding and icing the scrotum will not change a man's sperm count.

Even though sperm counts tend to rise in cooler temperatures, only three forms of heat can significantly affect fertility in men, says Samuel Thompson, M.D., of Urology of Indiana, in his article on "The Prevention of Male Fertility." A fever can temporarily reduce a man's sperm count, and the effect may take as long as three months to wear off. Soaking in a bathtub, hot tub, or sauna and also the heat caused by an untreated varicocele is the most common correctable cause of male infertility.

Another urban myth holds that eating non-organic bananas can cause sterility. This claim is based on a report that chemicals used in growing bananas had a negative effect on the sperm of farm workers. However, there is no clinical evidence that men who eat the bananas could be similarly affected, according to Reuter, one of only three female reproductive endocrinologists in Indiana.

There is also a common belief that boxers and loose-fitting clothing enables sperm production. But there is no clinical evidence to support the notion, Reuter says.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is generally the most important factor affecting male fertility. Reuter offers advice on the following five factors for improving the chances of fatherhood:

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* Smoking - Smokers often suffer from low sperm counts, decreased motility (the mobility of sperm), and a higher incidence of miscarriages.

* Substance abuse - Cocaine or heavy marijuana use appears to temporarily reduce the number and quality of sperm by as much as 50 percent. Excessive alcohol consumption also can damage sperm.

* Diet - A recent study of 1,558 men showed that men with a high BMI (Body Mass Index) have significantly poorer semen quality (on average 22 percent lower sperm concentrations) than men within the normal weight range.

* Exercise - Moderate exercise can help maintain weight and encourage optimal health. The use of steroids and testosterone supplements, however, can decrease sperm production.

* Stress - Stress can interfere with the production of GnRH, protein hormones released from the hypothalamus, which stimulates sperm production.

As for nutritional needs, a healthy diet is the best way of all to get needed vitamins and minerals, Reuter said, such as selenium and zinc, which have been shown to have a positive effect on sperm production. "Supplements can help, but there have been too few studies isolating them as singular influences on fertility. Nothing beats a balanced diet for absorbing essential nutrients."

A small study by Yefim Sheynkin of State University of New York in Stony Brook, suggests that laptop computers can pose a long-term threat to the fertility of young men who use them, because they can reduce sperm formation by raising temperatures in the genital area. Reuter notes that there's not enough conclusive evidence yet, but suggests keeping the laptop on the desk, just to be safe.

Released by Midwest Fertility Specialists

This page is updated on March 15, 2013

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