If you’re young and healthy, you might think that you or your partner is also incredibly virile. But there are certain underlying factors than can negatively affect your sperm count. Whether you’re trying to conceive, or are a health sciences student in nursing school, it’s important to understand how a person’s daily habits can impact reproductive health. Check out this list of 10 proven ways you can lower your sperm count (not that you’d want to).
1. Wearing tight underwear: This first example isn’t just an urban myth. A Stanford class has published an introduction to male infertility and lists tight underwear as a proven way to lower sperm count. This is because tight underwear raises the temperature of the scrotum, therefore making it harder to produce sperm. Tight pants may also have the same effect.
2. Using lubricants: Lubricants for enhanced sexual enjoyment could be a Catch-22 for some couples, as they help get the baby-making process started but can hinder sperm production. Petroleum-based lubricants like Vaseline don’t help sperm count or transportation, and most doctors recommend the moisturizer Pre-Seed if you need to use artificial lubrication.
3. Getting your vasectomy reversed: Getting a vasectomy is nearly 100% effective in making a man sterile, but some men still opt to reverse their vasectomies later in life. Reverse vasectomies are not always very effective and can inhibit sperm due to scarring and probable leakage.
4. Running or cycling too much: While it’s always a healthy decision to get enough exercise, you can exercise a little too much, if you’re worried about sperm count anyway. Researchers have studied long distance runners and cyclists and found that men who run more than 100 miles per week and men who ride their bikes more than 50 miles per week have decreased sperm count. The good news is that it is possible to limit these activities when you are trying to get your partner pregnant in order to temporarily increase your sperm count.
5. Doing drugs like cocaine or marijuana: Everyone should know that drugs are bad for your brain, your heart and of course your relationships and career, but they’re also damaging to your sperm count and quality of your sperm. Doctors have found that men who use cocaine have slower moving sperm and more abnormal sperm. If you use cocaine near the time of conception, you will increase the risk of having a child with birth defects, too.
6. Taking certain prescription medication or antibiotics: In addition to illegal drugs affecting sperm count, certain prescription medications and common antibiotics can lower it, too. Anti-fungal medications like ketoconazole and antibiotics like nitrofuran, erythromycin and gentamicin are all listed as drugs that can have negative effects on sperm.
7. Smoking: Smoking is a common bad habit that lowers sperm count, but researchers believe that secondhand smoking could be a risk factor, too. Dr. Michael A. Werner’s website states that smoking regularly “causes a 23% decrease in sperm density and a 13% decrease in motility,” plus an increase in abnormal sperm.
8. Becoming obese: Obesity can cause all sorts of health issues in men and women, but one alarming effect is lowered sperm count. Becoming significantly overweight causes hormonal changes that negatively affect sperm, and obese men and “are more than three times more likely to have low sperm count” than men of a normal weight, as reported on NowPublic.com.
9. Spending too much time around “heavy metals”: Heavy metals — including lead, cadmium and arsenic — can leave traces in humans when they spend too much time around them and don’t use proper protection. Even healthy men who have traces of heavy metals experience lower sperm counts due to decreased enzyme production in the acrosome membrane.
10. Not getting enough Vitamin C: Certain nutrients play a key role in healthy sperm production and sperm transport, especially Vitamin C, selenium, folate and zinc. Eat a diet rich in eggs, nuts, whole grains, dairy products, beans and dairy products to get all of these nutrients.