Unfortunately for men interested in a fertility evaluation, getting help isn't always easy. Whereas most women of childbearing age have a primary healthcare provider such as a gynecologist or family practitioner who deals with their reproductive issues, men generally do not. "Young men are a medically underserved population," Walsh says. "They simply don't have places to go to seek out healthcare for reproductive issues."
Couples struggling with infertility should make every effort to find help for both partners. While ob-gyns typically deal with women's reproductive problems, urologists are the best people for men to turn to for help. Some urologists -- like Walsh -- actually specialize in men's reproductive health. In recent years, there have been tremendous advances in the field of male reproductive medicine. In fact, with current technology, even men who produce just a single sperm can cause a pregnancy.
"We can dramatically increase the likelihood of couples conceiving at home or with the least amount of technology possible," Walsh says.
Dr. Valerie Ulene is a board-certified specialist in preventive medicine practicing in Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com. The MD appears the first Monday of the month.
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Improving your chances
Lifestyle changes can help boost a man's sperm count and go a long way toward promoting fertility. There's scientific evidence to suggest that men who are trying to have a child should consider the following recommendations:
* If you smoke, make every attempt to quit.
* Consume alcohol in moderation.
* Do not abuse drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.
* Eat a well-balanced diet.
* Drop a few pounds if you are overweight.
* Engage in regular physical activity.
* Some evidence suggests that raised scrotal temperature may lower sperm counts, so avoid prolonged use of hot tubs. Wearing loose-fitting boxer shorts instead of tight fitting briefs may not be a bad idea, though the benefits are far from certain.
* If you have underlying health problems such as diabetes or high cholesterol, get them under control.
"Reproductive function is one of the first things to go in states of poor health," says male fertility expert Dr. Thomas Walsh of UC San Francisco. "If your goal is to family plan, your job is to be the healthiest person you can possibly be."
-- Valerie Ulene