Medical science tells it like it is–a man’s health and his fertility are undeniably linked. But what role do genetics play in the fertility factor? Experts estimate that anywhere from 10-15% of male infertility cases are caused by genetics—and some say it could be as high as 60%. But there’s a difference between inherited infertility, which is caused by genetic conditions that have altered the chromosome, and infertility issues stemming from sperm DNA fragmentation. In that case, you’re dealing with modifiable male fertility factors that could be creating the problem. And actually, that’s good news.
Genetics & Male Fertility
Let’s get the official definitions out of the way first. People are considered infertile if they’re unable to successfully conceive a healthy pregnancy within six to twelve months of actively trying. When the problem stems from sperm that cannot fertilize the egg, the condition is considered male factor infertility. This is the case in roughly one-third of all infertility scenarios. Now for the burning question–is a condition like this inherited? In some cases, it might be.
One study found that sons of men who used intracytoplasmic sperm injection to conceive were much more likely to have sperm quality issues. Another study found that male children conceived via fertility treatment typically have lower sperm quality measured via various parameters, including motility, morphology, and concentration. In both cases, researchers assume genetic factors inherited through the parents are the likely culprit.
Modifiable Causes of Male Infertility
To be clear, genetic causes for male-factor infertility do exist, ranging from cystic fibrosis to Klinefelter syndrome to Y-chromosome microdeletions. These kinds of genetic infertility are present at birth, and we all understand that DNA can’t be changed. But what about those modifiable causes of infertility in men? In that case, you’re talking about all the things a man might be doing (or not doing, as the case may be) that are taking a toll on his fertility. Yes, we’re talking about crummy lifestyle choices. Smoking, drinking, a high-calorie, low-nutrient diet, minimal exercise, and exposure to environmental toxins are all considered bad news for a man’s fertility. Why?
These sorts of activities contribute to what’s known as sperm DNA fragmentation, an intimidating term that sounds genetic-adjacent. It’s not hereditary. This is the damage that’s done to the DNA inside sperm cells, usually related to a man’s age (yes, men have a biological clock too), illness or infection, and those lifestyle habits we keep talking about. The truth is, those bad habits have bigger consequences than a beer belly and a higher risk of heart disease or diabetes. A man’s preconception health in the months before conception has a direct impact on a successful conception, a healthy pregnancy, and the long-term health of his children.
The Pay-Off of Prioritizing Sperm Health
Fortunately, there’s an upside to this truth bomb. Male fertility largely comes down to sperm health, and sperm health can be improved, sometimes rapidly, with lifestyle changes. That means that prioritizing a healthy lifestyle can pay dividends for men hoping to become fathers. And it gets better. The right vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants really can support sperm health parameters–motility, morphology, concentration–along with the quality of the DNA in sperm. That’s why a high-quality men’s prenatal vitamin, like Beli Vitality for Men, is an excellent addition to an otherwise healthy lifestyle. Paired with healthy habits like exercise, stress management, sufficient sleep, and minimizing exposure to environmental toxins, this kind of supplementation is a way to nourish sperm for the best chances of a healthy conception, pregnancy, and little one.
But that’s not all.
This approach to supporting male fertility could actually modify gene expression. While DNA is basically the hardwired code in our cells–remember, the stuff we can’t change–epigenetic factors can be considered the instructions for expressing that code. That means that by changing your behavior to improve your chances of a successful conception, you could actually be changing the DNA you pass down–for the better.
When it comes to supporting male fertility, there is no downside to living your best, healthiest life. All of the things that you do for your health as a whole benefit your fertility too. Not only does that give you and your partner the best shot of a healthy conception, pregnancy, and baby, it could positively influence the genes you’re passing to the next generation. Cool, right?