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Erectile dysfunction and fertility: What to know when trying for a baby

Becoming successfully pregnant is dependent on a wide range of factors and erectile dysfunction can play a role in this.

Written by
Imogen Kars
Medically reviewed by
Dr Vincent Mok
Last updated
April 19, 2024
min read
Erectile dysfunction and fertility: What to know when trying for a baby
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Starting a family is one of the greatest joys in life for some people — so it makes sense that the link between fertility and erectile dysfunction is something you may think about.

When trying for a baby, emotions often run high. Becoming successfully pregnant is dependent on a wide range of factors, but is erectile dysfunction one of them?

Can erectile dysfunction affect male fertility?

First things first, erectile dysfunction cannot directly cause male infertility. But the underlying psychological concerns that plague men who suffer from erectile dysfunction can have an impact.

Confused? Let's flesh it out a little.

To understand the connection (or lack thereof) between erectile dysfunction and infertility, we need to take it back a notch and explore the core reasons behind sexual dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction simply refers to a man's inability to attain or maintain an erection that lasts throughout intercourse, and it can be chronic or sporadic.

While the definition of erectile dysfunction is simple enough to understand, the core trigger of an individual's experience with sexual dysfunction is completely different in every person.

From physical factors to a man's underlying psychological health status, as well as the lifestyle choices he makes, erectile function is dependent on all aspects of general health.

In terms of physical disorders that can induce sexual dysfunction, causes can range from diabetes mellitus, to underlying cardiovascular disorders, high blood pressure and any other diseases that affect general health.

Co-morbid or separately existing psychological conditions can also induce or exacerbate issues with sexual dysfunction, including depression, anxiety and even the use of antidepressants.

Finally, lifestyle factors like smoking and unhealthy eating can also limit blood flow to the penis, meaning sexual function can be triggered by poor general health in any light.

So what's the connection with male infertility?

Now that we've delved into the background of what erectile dysfunction is and what causes it, understanding its connection with male infertility might be a little easier.

As erectile dysfunction can quite literally get in the way of men ejaculating, it's possible that becoming pregnant could take a little more effort.

As pregnancy requires sperm entering the vaginal canal and cosying up to the woman's egg, it is entirely possible that sexual problems including ED could hinder a man's ability to reproduce.

What is the difference between male infertility and sexual dysfunction?

The major difference between infertility and sexual dysfunction is that ED refers to the struggle of getting or maintaining an erection, whereas infertility refers to an inability to produce or release sperm.

Impotence, which is another term for erectile dysfunction, simply refers to difficulty getting or keeping an erection that's firm enough for sexual activity.

Sterility or infertility means that the body doesn't produce “good” sperm — that is, not enough sperm are produced, or the sperm don't function as they should to fertilise the egg.

There are some medical conditions that can cause both infertility as well as erectile dysfunction. It is therefore helpful to think of erectile dysfunction as a symptom of an underlying health condition. Sometimes, the underlying health conditions can also cause infertility. That’s the indirect link between ED and infertility.

Is it possible to get pregnant when experiencing erectile dysfunction?

If this is the question you've been waiting for, we're happy to report that baby-making is entirely possible for couples who experience sexual dysfunction!

The inability to maintain an erection during intercourse doesn't affect a man's sperm count — it also doesn't mean he can never enjoy the bliss of ejaculation!

While the road to babymaking could be a little trickier for couples who experience ED, there's light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to starting a family.

If your sperm count is good (meaning the number of sperm released during ejaculation), and you're working on the underlying causes of your sexual dysfunction as well as seeking treatment for ED, you can rest easy knowing that getting pregnant is entirely possible and probable.

To nip ED in the bud in order to start a family, any associated psychological concerns should be addressed.

General health and your medical history should also be taken into consideration, and lifestyle choices like tobacco smoking or overeating should be carefully considered.

If you've been working hard at getting your partner pregnant and tackling the core issues of your ED without any luck, it's definitely worth seeing your GP to see if you need a fertility evaluation.

Pilot offers personalised clinical treatment plans for erectile dysfunction that you can access today. Simply complete our online assessment when it is convenient for you and one of our practitioners will review your answers and create a treatment plan that caters to your needs.

Is erectile dysfunction normal?

Due to the unpredictable nature of ED and its ability to come and go due to a number of physical and mental factors, there's no concrete figure on how many men experience erectile dysfunction at any one time.

Studies have found that around one in 10 men will experience ED at some point in their lifetime and that number seems to be increasing.

Whatever the figures and facts are, we want to let you know that ED is very common.

While we want to err on the side of caution while using the word 'normal', simply due to the fact that with sexual dysfunction, the body isn't functioning as it should, ED is something that many men across the world experience at different times in their life.

In general, ED is said to affect around 10 per cent of men per decade of life — as an example, for men in their 40s, approximately 40 per cent of the male population will be affected by ED at some point during that time frame.

Younger men are less likely to experience sexual dysfunction when it comes to ED, but experiencing its woes if you're under 40 doesn't make you abnormal, per se.

Throughout life, we all experience stressful circumstances that can exacerbate both our mental and physical health conditions.

Since ED can occur sporadically and come and go, it's worth examining what's going on in your life before your mind races to worst-case scenarios.

With sexual dysfunction occurring frequently in men of reproductive age, you can sleep soundly knowing that ED is common and for the most part, conquerable when you work with a trusted health professional.

Common symptoms of erectile dysfunction

While symptoms can differ between each man, the most common symptoms of erectile dysfunction are:

  • Finding it difficult to get an erection at any time
  • Having proper erectile function sometimes, but not every time you want to get hard or have sexual intercourse
  • Being able to get an erection, but not having it last long enough to have sexual intercourse
  • Having erections that are not hard enough for penetration
  • Loss of erection after penetration
  • Unsatisfactory intercourse

We want to reiterate that it's totally normal and okay to have one or a few of the issues above occasionally.

Like we mentioned above, sometimes life throws us curveballs that tip us off our A-game when it comes to sexual desire or intimacy. Your only cause for concern is when the symptoms above happen more than half of the time you go to have sex.

When should you seek professional help?

If you're finding it hard to get it up, keep it up or use your penis for sexual intercourse most of the time you get intimate with your partner, it might be time to seek help from a trusted healthcare professional.

Similarly, if you've been trying to get your partner pregnant for a long while and you've undergone a fertility evaluation, it's wise to contact a doctor.

For men having trouble with their erection (which might be getting in the way of having a baby), Pilot offers accessible and helpful treatment options that have worked in over 80 per cent of cases over the last 20 years. Our Pilot practitioners can also discuss with you the lifestyle factors that cause ED, including smoking, alcohol and mental health.

Photo Credit: NBC

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