Couples often assume that infertility is solely a women’s health issue, but male infertility is just as common. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), about 20 percent of all infertility cases are caused solely by male factors of infertility, and an additional 30 percent of infertility cases are due to combined male and female infertility factors.
Because of this misunderstanding about male fertility, many couples don’t consider the male when thinking about causes. We do, and our first consultation generally involves both male and female partners.
We’ll discuss the man’s medical history to determine if any family history medical issues may be affecting his fertility. We’ll also bring up sexual history, which can point to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or erectile dysfunction issues. A semen analysis would be next, and blood testing and imaging to detect problems may also be used. If an abnormality is found, a repeat test is performed. If it is abnormal again, a referral to a urologist experienced in male infertility is made.
These are not things men should be wary of if their goal is a successful pregnancy. And since the treatments for male infertility may be less invasive than those for female infertility, men should not hesitate to seek care when they are having trouble conceiving with their partners.
Since there are important medical problems that can cause abnormalities with the semen analysis, it is important to not only perform the semen analysis test, but if it is persistently abnormal, perform an appropriate evaluation to rule out these problems. ASRM defines infertility as no success getting pregnant after a year of regularly trying without birth control.
Poor sperm & lifestyle impact male infertility
For many men, infertility is often related to low sperm count, poor sperm motility or poor morphology. These can prevent sperm from doing its part, swimming to and penetrating the female egg in the fallopian tube awaiting fertilization.
Not enough sperm production can cause male infertility. Hormonal imbalances can be the problem. It’s important for a fertility specialist to either identify or rule this out as the cause. Medications can sometimes solve this problem.
Similarly, sperm that does not have the proper quality can also result in male infertility. A sperm’s morphology usually denotes poor fertilization quality. Sperm’s motility, its ability to move through the female reproductive system to reach the egg for fertilization, can also lead to male infertility. This can include the ability to attach itself to the egg once it has reached it.
The following factors can contribute to male infertility causes as described above.
Being underweight or overweight can impact male fertility—especially when these issues are related to malnutrition and physical inactivity. Changing your diet and getting more exercise can improve your fertility, help you maintain a healthier weight and bring hormones into balance.
Aside from diet and exercise habits, several lifestyle factors can affect male fertility. Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or marijuana, and not managing stress can possibly reduce fertility by lowering sperm count or causing abnormal development of sperm. Exposure to excessive heat can affect sperm production and function. Exposure to environmental toxins in the workplace could be a risk factor for infertility as well.
In some cases, there may be a blockage that prevents otherwise healthy sperm from getting into the ejaculate fluid. The blockage may have no symptoms and be repairable through surgery. Causes may include infection, injury or congenital defects.
Varicoceles are similar to varicose veins and they develop in the scrotum, causing increased temperatures that can reduce sperm production. Symptoms may be present, though the condition could go unnoticed until infertility is diagnosed.
Other factors may be involved, such as:
- Diseases involving the heart, liver and kidneys, as well as cancer
- Trauma to testicles
- Surgery in the groin area can reduce blood to the testicles
- Erectile dysfunction, the inability to maintain an erection through ejaculation.
Arizona Reproductive Medicine Specialists can help you understand all aspects of male infertility and the modern treatments for it in our Phoenix office. To connect with our compassionate team of fertility specialists, call (602) 351-5327 or visit our website to make an appointment.