8 Secrets Men Should Tell Their Doctors

Things You Must Tell Your Fertility or Primary Care Doctor

Man with his hand over his mouth and shocked look on his face
Talking about your sexual difficulties can be difficult. Do it anyway. PeopleImages.com / Getty Images

No one likes to disclose their most personal problems, even to their doctor. With that said, some secrets should be told.

Here are 8 secrets you shouldn’t keep from your doctor, especially if you and your partner are trying to conceive.

You Have Difficulty Getting or Keeping an Erection

There’s a belief that erectile dysfunction is an “old man’s” problem and not something that affects young men. However, it does and can occur in young men.

The tricky thing about erectile dysfunction and fertility is that it can be any of the following:

Erectile dysfunction (ED) may hint at an undiagnosed medical problem. Some of the underlying medical causes of erectile dysfunction – like diabetes, a hormonal imbalance, a nerve injury, or disease – can also cause infertility.

Your overall health and your fertility may be at stake, so don’t keep erectile dysfunction from your doctor.

Medications, including anti-depressants, can cause ED. If you suspect a drug you’re taking is having this side effect, ask your doctor about alternative medications. There may be other options without this side effect.

Infertility and the stress of trying to conceive can also cause erectile dysfunction.

One study of couples who were trying to get pregnant with timed intercourse found that 42.8% of the men in the study experienced erectile dysfunction.

If timed intercourse is causing sexual problems, know that you have other options.

For example, you may want to consider having sex three times a week, instead of trying to time it exactly for ovulation.

Talk to your doctor about your options.

You Had a Sexually Transmitted Infection in the Past

It’s in the past, so why mention that you once had a sexually transmitted infection?

This actually is something you should tell your doctor.

Some STIs can cause scaring within the male reproductive tract. Even after the infection has been treated with antibiotics, the scaring remains.

Don’t assume that experiencing ejaculation means there’s no scaring. It’s possible for the scaring to block off the sperm while the other fluids that make up semen flow freely.

You’ve Practiced Unsafe or Risky Sex

This is something your doctor should know even if it happened in the past (especially if you’ve never been tested for an STI), but it’s also important if that unsafe sex happened in the midst of a monogamous relationship.

For couples struggling to conceive, this may not be that uncommon. Remember the research on timed intercourse, which I mentioned above, where 42.8% of the men in the study experienced erectile dysfunction?

That same study found that 10.7% of the men had had sex outside of their marriage.

(Interesting note: all of the men who had affairs had also experienced erectile dysfunction.

But not all the men who experienced ED had affairs.)

If you and your partner are married, the gynecologist will likely not test your wife for sexually transmitted infections more than once. They are assuming she and you are low risk.

But if you’re sleeping around – even if it only happened once – and you contract an STI, it could harm both her fertility and yours.

Worse, while men often experience symptoms of an STI, and therefore will get treated quicker, sexually transmitted infections in woman can wreak havoc silently.

At the very least, come clean to your own doctor and get tested. If the test comes back positive, you must inform your partner.

You Have Pain or Swelling in Your Testicles 

Pain or swelling in the testicles can be caused by a number of things and should always be checked out by your doctor.

If you notice a warm swollen area on one or both of your testicles that looks like a bag of worms, you may have a varicocele.

Varicocele is a common cause of infertility and should be brought to the attention to your doctor, even if you aren’t experiencing pain.

Speaking of pain… you should mention any unexpected lumps in the scrotum to your doctor. Don’t use the lack of pain as an indicator that a lump is harmless.  Testicular cancer is generally painless.

Infection can also be the cause of testicular pain. Some infections, especially those left untreated, can cause internal scaring, leading to infertility.

Do you experience scrotum pain from biking? Don’t ignore that pain either. The physical stress biking places on the testicles actually can cause fertility problems. 

You’re Not Feeling Interested in Sex

Not feeling interested in sex can be connected to the stress of trying to conceive, depression, or relationship difficulties.

But it may also be caused by an underlying medical condition.

People don’t often realize that mood isn’t just about life situation or personality.

Mood is biological, and can be negatively affected by disease, infection, or a hormonal imbalance.

Talk to your doctor if your libido is low. It may be a contributing factor of infertility.

You’re Taking Supplements or Trying Out Herbal Remedies

There are a number of supplements and herbal remedies out there advertised to boost male fertility. (Most, if not all, have no or little research to back them up… watch out for scams.)

You really should speak to your doctor before starting any supplements.

One possible concern is a vitamin overdose. For example, selenium is important for male fertility, but in high doses, it can be toxic.

More is not always better – sometimes, more is dangerous.

Another potential danger in taking supplements without speaking to your doctor is that some medications can interact dangerously with herbs or substances.  A natural remedy is not a benign remedy.

Lastly, these supplements are generally unregulated. That means the bottle may say it contains one thing but contains something else.

If you’re experiencing strange symptoms, and you’re taking a supplement, talk to your doctor.

You Want to Take a Time Out from Treatments

If you and your partner would like to take a break from fertility treatment, tell your doctor. Don’t push yourselves to keep going if you need time off.

Just as importantly, if only you want to take a break, but your partner doesn’t, talk to the doctor about this as well.

Disagreements on whether to continue treatment or not are common. While you might be thinking it’s up to the woman because "it’s her body,” this is about both of you. You should not be moving forward on treatments if you are not both interested in doing so.

Bring up your concerns with your doctor. Your clinic may be able to recommend a counselor familiar with fertility issues who can sit down with you and your partner and work out the disagreement.

Counseling can really help so do consider it.

You’re Feeling Depressed

Depression or low moods can be a symptom of a hormonal imbalance. It’s something that should be checked out medically and not kept from your doctor.

The stress of trying to conceive and infertility can also cause depression, or worsen it.

Often times, the man in the relationship feels he needs to be the “strong one.” But infertility affects men just as it affected women. Men just may express and cope with the emotional pain differently.

Some couples are afraid to try anti-depressants when trying to conceive. While some anti-depressants can cause male fertility problems, many don’t.

You don’t have to suffer with depression when you’re trying to conceive. Talk to your doctor.

More on male infertility:


Bak CW1, Lyu SW, Seok HH, Byun JS, Lee JH, Shim SH, Yoon TK. “Erectile dysfunction and extramarital sex induced by timed intercourse: a prospective study of 439 men.” J Androl. 2012 Nov-Dec;33(6):1245-53. doi: 10.2164/jandrol.112.016667. Epub 2012 May 3. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2164/jandrol.112.016667/abstract;jsessionid=1E02E44802A9A671FBC641E104D2F5AE.f02t02

Leibovitch I1, Mor Y. “The vicious cycling: bicycling related urogenital disorders.” Eur Urol. 2005 Mar;47(3):277-86; discussion 286-7. Epub 2004 Dec 30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15716187

Male Infertility: Disease and Conditions. MayoClinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-infertility/basics/causes/con-20033113 Accessed February 26, 2015.

Sexual Dysfunction and Infertility. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. http://www.asrm.org/FACTSHEET_Sexual_Dysfunction_and_Infertility/ Accessed February 26, 2015.

Southorn T. “Great balls of fire and the vicious cycle: a study of the effects of cycling on male fertility.” J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care. 2002 Oct;28(4):211-3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12419067

Testicle pain. MedlinePlus. Accessed February 26, 2015. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003160.htm

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