I’m a 39-year-old man and I have recently discovered that I’m infertile. I love my girlfriend, but since I found out, I have really struggled to feel aroused. It has left me with no desire to have sex.
There has always been far more emphasis on, and research into, female infertility than male.
It is, however, an increasingly pressing concern. A 2013 study that evaluated interviews with 22,682 men and women aged 15-44 estimated that about 12% of men have fertility problems, but that proportion is likely to be larger today.
Research published in 2017 in the journal Human Reproduction Update showed that on average the sperm counts of men from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand declined by 52.4% between 1973 and 2011.
The fall in male fertility has triggered a flurry of new research projects on the subject.
Last year the journal Nature published a review by Francesco Lotti and Mario Maggi of the existing research into sexual dysfunction and male infertility.
The review confirmed the link between infertility and sexual dysfunction, and found that decreased libido and reduced sexual satisfaction are the most commonly reported complaints.
The loss of desire that you describe is almost certainly a stress response to your diagnosis, and it may resolve as you get treatment or adjust to your situation.
It is not surprising that a condition that undermines the biological purpose of sex has had a serious impact on your capacity to engage in it, so try not to bottle up your feelings.
Sharing the psychological burden with your partner will make you and her feel a lot less anxious.
Focusing on her satisfaction will take the pressure off you, and watching her experience pleasure and orgasm may be the boost your libido needs.
In a 2017 Fertility Network UK survey, 93% of respondents, who were all male, said that issues with fertility made them feel emasculated, isolated and inadequate.
You don’t give details of your condition, but it’s worth saying that male infertility is not always permanent.
About 40% of male infertility is caused by a varicocele, a clump of varicose veins in the testes that can be identified with an ultrasound scan and can often be repaired through simple surgery.
Other causes can be more complex — genetics, illness, obstruction, or environmental and lifestyle factors that include all the usual suspects: overexposure to chemicals or pesticides, overheating, smoking, poor diet and alcohol.
There may be aspects of your condition that you cannot control, but there are almost certainly parts of your lifestyle that you can change for the better.
Better general health usually improves sexual health, so improving your diet, drinking less alcohol, quitting smoking, wearing boxers rather than tight-fitting briefs and exercising regularly can only do you good.
You may also want to start taking a nutritional supplement.
A recent 12-week trial at the University of Sheffield found that giving fertile men a daily dose of a commercially available dietary compound called LactoLycopene increased the number of healthy sperm by about 40%.
Their next trial will include men who have fertility problems.
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