Starting a family can be a stressful process, and there are things that can affect your plans that you may not have considered. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 18 percent of men who sought help with a fertility specialist were diagnosed with a male-related infertility. Here are some factors that can impact your fertility.

Your underwear could impact your sperm production

Ban briefs; go boxers

Elevated temperatures can impair sperm production and function. Although studies are limited and inconclusive, if you’re trying to start a family, switch from briefs to boxers. The change won’t happen right away; it will take your body about six to eight weeks to adjust to your new wardrobe.

Alcohol can have negative effects on your testosterone

Skip happy hour

Drinking alcohol can lower testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction and decrease sperm production. Prolonged drinking can also lead to liver disease, which can impact fertility.

A study published in 2014 suggested that drinking just five units of alcohol every week could reduce the quality of a man’s sperm, and that more alcohol correlated with weaker quality of sperm. It’s also good practice for your partner’s pregnancy, as men’s alcohol consumption can make it more difficult for a woman to stop drinking, which is vital for the health of the baby.

Just say no.

Kick the butt

Men who smoke may have a lower sperm count than those who don’t. Even secondhand smoke has been shown to reduce fertility in both assisted and non-assisted pregnancies. In 2016, a study showed that smoking was associated with decreased sperm count, decreased sperm motility and poor sperm morphology.

If you’ve had trouble quitting in the past, talk to your health care provider for tips, as some quitting methods may provide small doses of nicotine that can affect fertility.

Obesity can lead to irregular hormone levels

Watch your weight

Being overweight or underweight can have negatively impact a man’s sperm count and can decrease his libido. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 70 percent of adults were overweight or obese in 2014, and an estimated 1.7 percent of adults were underweight as of 2010.

The first step to improving your weight is managing your diet, so be sure to talk to your health care provider about ways to improve your nutrition intake.

An underlying medical condition can make it difficult to have children

Go get checked

There are many different underlying conditions that can affect male fertility, such as tumors, celiac disease and varicocele—a condition in which the veins are large and cause the testicles to overheat. If you’ve been diagnosed with any of these conditions, or are worried about any conditions you may have, talk to your primary care provider about what options are available for you.

— Dominic Hernandez

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