“If your partner is in her mid-thirties and if she’s not pregnant after six months, then you should at least get a semen analysis,” says Dr. Marc Goldstein, professor and specialist in male reproduction at New York’s Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
Women, with their comparatively complex bodies, have been terrorized by scary information about conception for decades. They are prepared. When the time comes to join the mommy-industrial complex, they’re already packing an ovulation-predictor kit and sperm-friendly intimate moisturizer, and pinning a temperature chart to the fridge where the delivery menus used to be. You, on the other hand, will be blindsided by your inability to sire an heir in the time it takes to order a Meat Lover’s pizza.
“Reproduction has become a sort of consumer choice,” says Eric Thurnauer, a New York psychotherapist. “And as something becomes more commodified, we feel entitled to have more control over it.” In other words, because we’re accustomed to being able to pay someone to do something for us, we get worked up when it doesn’t happen instantly.
That delusion is becoming a lot less common of late, thanks to the melodramatic media, a postapocalyptic film starring Clive Owen, and converts who will fill you in on the intricacies of their wife’s oral ovulation detector while you’re waiting for the leg press at the gym. Guys are giving up booze and cigarettes for pumpkin seeds, zinc, and selenium.
“I think a lot of guys look at their lifestyles, because they’re drinking all the time or whatever,” says Marcus (not his real name), a 33-year-old marketing executive who lives in New York. “I was worried because I used to smoke a lot of pot. It took me and my wife a year before she got pregnant. When she didn’t get pregnant right away, I began to freak out.”
Any fertility doctor will give prospective parents the same advice: Eat healthy, get regular exercise, quit smoking, and drink only in moderation. But most of all he’ll tell you: Relax. Except how can you relax when male infertility has been linked to cell-phone use (it’s been suggested that four hours or more a day may handicap your little guys), cubicle-jockey jobs (those hot balls again), and recreational drugs? That pot you smoked in your twenties? Not good. As for environmental toxinswhich the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology has suggested may be responsible for declining sperm qualitythat shit is swarming all around you.
Naturally, as during any supposed epidemic, there are contrary voices. Two studies published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility in the late nineties suggested that men actually had higher sperm counts than they did 20 years prior. And advances in medicine such as in vitro fertilization have completely changed the conception landscape. So what are the chances of a guy in his thirties actually being stone-cold unable to have kids?