What You Need to Know About Stress and Male Fertility
A common reaction to hearing about fertility issues, whether relating to male or female concerns, is for someone to tell you to simply “relax.”
“Relax, and it will happen naturally.”
“Take it easy. Stress makes things worse.”
“Maybe you’d conceive if you took a vacation.”
It’s all well-intentioned advice, but the last thing most people who are concerned about being able to conceive need is to be told to “relax.” Medical issues, including infertility, are rarely so simple they can be boiled down to a need to de-stress. This isn’t to say stress and male fertility aren’t at all linked. It just means that your anxiety is a contributing factor, not the sole cause.
The top causes for male infertility:
- A low sperm count
- Poor sperm motility (the ability to move)
- Abnormal shape/size (morphology) of sperm
Less common but potential causes for male infertility:
- Testosterone deficiency
- Previous cancer treatment (chemotherapy and/or radiation)
- Varicoceles (varicose veins located in the testicles)
- Illegal drug use
- Certain prescribed medications
- Excessive exercise
- Severe stress
- Learn more about what causes male infertility.
So how does stress affect fertility?
There are a few different ways stress can make conception difficult. Stress negatively impacts a person’s energy level and libido, so both men and women may be less likely to desire intercourse. Stress is also known to affect hormones, causing an excess or loss of certain hormones. Additionally, many individuals who experience high levels of stress are more likely to engage in poor lifestyle habits, such as tobacco and alcohol use.
Ultimately, it is unlikely that your doctor will diagnose you with “stress-related infertility.” Stress may be a factor, but an underlying issue, such as sperm quality or quantity, or other health concerns, is most likely.
If you have questions relating to how stress can impact male fertility, we suggest that you contact a fertility specialist to request a consultation. He or she will be able to assess your medical history and that of your partner to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Additional resources on sperm, infertility and more: