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The Male Fertility Study You Might Want to Hide from Your Partner

a blog by Claire, June 13, 2012

So … apparently there is a new study out of Britain that may have your man printing it out to gleefully bring home and wave under your nose, saying, "See honey, even though we're trying to have a baby, I don't have to stop drinking or smoking or start eating healthy and losing weight! It says so right here in this study! 'Heavy Drinking, Smoking Won't Harm Men's Sperm.'"

To borrow from Saturday Night Live … Really? You think it's a good idea to be party rockin' in the house every night when you're trying to conceive? Really? Isn't that just a bit too good to be true?

Take a step back and breathe. And don't give your would-be dad the green light to go wild just yet.

Essentially, current guidelines from Britain's National Institute for Clinical Excellence advise doctors to warn infertile men about the dangers of smoking, alcohol consumption and recreational drug use, as well as the risks of being overweight and wearing tight underwear. But now researchers from the Universities of Manchester and Sheffield have found that many common lifestyle choices make little difference to male fertility, based on how many swimming sperm men produce.

The scientists recruited 2,249 men from 14 fertility clinics in the United Kingdom and asked them to fill out detailed questionnaires about their lifestyle. They then compared that information to 939 men who ejaculated low numbers of swimming sperm and a control group of 1,310 men who produced higher numbers of swimming sperm. They found that men who had low numbers of swimmers were:

  • 2.5 times more likely to have had testicular surgery
  • twice as likely to be black
  • 1.3 times more likely to do manual work, not wear boxer shorts or not had a previous conception.

And then, they found … drum roll please … that men's use of recreational drugs, tobacco and alcohol, as well as their weight (measured by body mass index) had little effect on the number of swimmers. The study was published in the journal Human Reproduction..

“Despite lifestyle choices being important for other aspects of our health, our results suggest that many lifestyle choices probably have little influence on how many swimming sperm they ejaculate," says Andrew Povey, M>D., from the University of Manchester’s School of Community Based Medicine.

Now, before you console your husband's loss of tighty whities by buying him a six-pack, let's put this in perspective.

First, this is one study that counters what other studies have found.

Secondly, this study looked at the numbers of swimmingsperm that men produced, known as motility, which is definitely important to male fertility. The study did not look at sperm morphology (size and shape), which is also a factor in male fertility, as well as the quality of the DNA in the sperm.

Thirdly, the study authors make a good point about whether it is wise to delay fertility treatment based on the male partner improving his health and lifestyle. Basically, Dr. Povey said: "Delaying fertility treatment then for these couples so that they can make changes to their lifestyles, for which there is little evidence of effectiveness, is unlikely to improve their chances of a conception and, indeed, might be prejudicial for couples with little time left to lose."

For this one, it might be best to use some common sense. If it's something that's not good for your overall health, why would it be good for procreation?

Tell us what you think about this new study in the comments section below!

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