Up to one in eight couples in the United States faces fertility issues.[1] The medical community considers a couple “infertile” if they “are [un]able to conceive a child even though they’ve had frequent, unprotected sexual intercourse for a year or longer.”[2] It is all too common for couples who have trouble conceiving to assume that problems relating to fertility lie with the woman. Indeed, most of the research on infertility over the years has focused on female infertility. However, male infertility can be attributed to 30 percent of infertile couples.[3]  In fact, some studies argue that male infertility worldwide is on the rise,[4] although this is currently up for debate.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to male infertility, including chronic health problems, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, hormonal imbalances, environmental toxins, and even the male biological clock, which begins running when men hit their mid-30s. In addition, it isn’t entirely clear from the research already done that the signs pointing to global male infertility are not the result of an increase in infertility treatments or couples starting families later in life.[5]

“Older mothers may get the blame for infertility, but a new study found that new fathers in the U.S. are on average nearly four years older than they were in 1972, while almost 9 percent of new American fathers are over 40, double the percentage from 45 years ago.”[6]

Moreover, there is a growing field of attorneys specializing in litigating against pharmaceutical companies that manufacture drugs like Propecia, which has been tied to lower sperm counts.[7]

The truth of the matter is that male infertility is woefully under-researched, compared to the amount of time and effort put toward understanding female infertility.

“Pretending that pregnancy is almost entirely a female responsibility means that women are forced to carry the burden and the blame when it goes wrong, while men, who are just as vital to healthy conception, rarely worry about how their lifestyles impact their own fertility or their possible children.”[8]

So if a couple is trying—and failing—to conceive, they should not automatically assume the woman is to blame. This could be a sign of male infertility, and it is foolish to ignore the health needs of men in order to protect societal norms of traditional gender relations. Men should consult with a urologist and consider whether their life choices—e.g., smoking, sedentary lifestyle, etc.—may have a role to play in their inability to conceive.



[1] Almendra, A., “Sperm Counts Are Down, But That Doesn’t Mean A Male Fertility Crisis,” Huffingtonpost.com, located at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/no-western-male-fertility-crisis_us_59efc70de4b0b7e63265b887.

[2] See https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-infertility/basics/definition/con-20033113

[3] Almendra, n. 1 supra.

[4] Walsh, B., “Male Infertility Crisis in U.S. Has Doctors Baffled,” Newsweek.com, located at http://www.newsweek.com/2017/09/22/male-infertility-crisis-experts-663074.html

[5] Almendra, n. 1 supra.

[6] Walsh, n. 5 supra.

[7] See https://www.drugwatch.com/propecia/lawsuit/

[8] Walsh, n. 5 supra.