May 8, 2012 3:03 PM by KATC

How To Make A Baby: Men's Reproductive Health

COUPLES HAVING TROUBLE conceiving a baby usually seek the advice of the woman's doctor first. The man becomes an afterthought. That is, until the couple is evaluated.

As it turns out, in at least 40 percent of couples having trouble, the trouble is with "Harry"--not with "Harriet."

Many men breeze through their twenties and thirties-smoking, drinking, using drugs-without a thought in the world about their reproductive health. But studies worldwide continue to report sperms counts are falling and have been for decades.

Dr. Chris Fontenot, a Lafayette urologist, says the jury is still out on the exact cause of falling sperm counts. But researchers are learning what can be hazardous to a man's ability to become a father.

"Habits are a contributing factor to the health of sperm," Fontenot says. "When we talk about the quality of sperm, we talk about the "morphology" or how the sperm looks under the microscope-and motility-how well it swims."

From one man to the next and within the same man, sperm count can vary-as much as a thousand percent. Itt can depend on many factors:

--has he had the flu lately?

--a fever of 102-degrees?

Even, "does he spend too much time in hot tubs?"

Dr. Fontenot minces no words when it comes to the hazards of hot tubs.

"Avoid hot tubs," he says. "Right now the legal limit of a hot tub temperature is 104-degrees. That's a little bit more than your normal temperature. They used to let them go up t0 120 and that was clearly too hot."

Hot tubs aren't the only "culprit" in leading to a lower sperm count. Where a man lives can apparently reduce a man's count of strong "swimmers," as sperm are called.

For instance, sperm counts in New York City are almost double those in Los Angeles.


Dr. Fontenot says, "New York consistently has the highest sperm counts in the United States for the last 60 years. One of the theories was that there was more hot tub-takers in Los Angeles than there were in New York. i don't know if that's true or not. But we do tell you you should probably avoid heat as much as possible."

And it's not just hottubs that can be anathema to a healthy sperm count. Where a man works, what he does for a living, can also be deleterious. Some jobs just aren't as friendly to wannabe dads as others.

"It's the chronic exposure to heat, Dr. Fontenot says. "It's typically the guys who are, for instance, welders or machinists who work in really hot environments."

A major belief among the public is that tight jockey shorts aren't good for a man's fertility - that if you want to be a dad, you must wear boxer shorts?

But Fontenot studies have disproved that belief. He says it's just a "myth."

"There's absolutely no data to say that boxers are better than briefs when it comes to fertility and sperm quality."

So, as it turns out - boxers or briefs, it simply doesn't matter.

But what about cell phones? Does a cell phone carried in a man's pocket emit radiation strong enough to kill sperm?
What about micro-waved food? Plastic water bottles?

Are they taking a toll on a couples' hopes and dreams of having children?

In the final segment of "How to Make a Baby," we will investigate these and other issues and see how a man can raise his chances of becoming a father.

--- Hoyt Harris



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