Half Of Would-Be Dads Reluctant To See A Doctor

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On the eve of Father's Day, a new Internet poll suggests that social pressures and emotional discomfort are thwarting the desires of nearly half the men wanting to become dads -- hurdles that New England fertility experts say can be easily overcome.

According to an informal Web poll produced by IntegraMed, the leading operator of fertility centers in the United States, nearly half of the 500 respondents to an online query said it was only after constant pressure that their husbands were willing to seek medical consultation. Additionally, 42 percent said their husbands simply were not comfortable talking to a doctor about their possible infertility, taking the position that they were "not meant to have children."

Despite the misconception that infertility is a woman's problem, in nearly 30 percent of all infertility cases, the cause of infertility is attributed to a factor in the man and in an additional 30 percent of cases, both male and female factors are contributing to infertility in the couple.

"Some men are reluctant to seek infertility treatment, because they associate their sense of masculinity with the ability to conceive a child," said Dr. Samuel Pang, medical director of the Reproductive Science Center of New England. "Unfortunately, their resistance to address the issue can hinder both diagnosis and timely treatment."

A healthy lifestyle is generally considered the most important factor affecting male fertility. Dr. Pang offers advice on the following five factors to improve the chances of conception:

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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 -- Excessive alcohol consumption can damage sperm; cocaine or heavy marijuana use appears to temporarily reduce the number and quality of sperm by as much as 50 percent.

-- Diet & nutrition -- 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 BMI range. Some studies have suggested a beneficial effect of anti-oxidant substances, as well as selenium and zinc, for men who have male factor infertility.

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

-- Stress -- Severe stress may interfere with the production of GnRH, protein hormones released from the hypothalamus, which stimulates sperm production.

-- Heat -- Prolonged or repeated exposure of the testicles can have a negative effect on the production of sperm. Men should avoid sitting in hot baths, jacuzzis, steam baths or saunas. It is also advised not to place a laptop computer on the lap over the groin for prolong periods of time.

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