Causes of Infertility in Men

Causes of Infertility in Men Causes of Infertility in Men

The causes of infertility in men are various, including problems with hormone levels, quality and quantity of semen, and the sperm’s ability to properly fertilize an egg. While age is a factor in female fertility, most men are fertile until around age 60, even as sperm production starts to decline at age 40. In this article, we review some of the many causes of male infertility. 

Sperm health and semen analysis
One of the primary causes of infertility in men is related to low sperm count and a man’s inability to produce sperm. For example, some genetic conditions may reduce sperm counts. And sometimes men have a high sperm count but lack the ability to release the sperm. Without being released, the sperm are unable to fertilize the egg. Other men have weak or slow sperm that cannot reach the egg. Rarely, sperm may be rejected by substances in the female’s body (antibodies), preventing successful implantation of an embryo.

A semen analysis and other recommended male fertility tests can help you and your partner get to the root of any potential male fertility problems.

Common causes of male infertility
Here are some of the more common causes of male infertility:

  • Injuries and physical trauma to the testes - can reduce or eliminate sperm production and lessen the chances of conception
  • Male obesity - can lead to decreased testosterone and decreased libido
  • Smoking - linked to a decrease in sperm function
  • Poor nutrition
  • Stress
  • Chronic illnesses (like diabetes) and fever; Infections can also lower sperm counts
  • DES exposure in the womb
  • Environmental toxins
  • Genetic problems
  • STDs - can lower sperm count and mobility, causing inflammation and infertility.
  • Surgeries - hernia repair surgery may damage the vas deferens, blocking the normal flow of sperm
  • Tubal obstructions
  • Varicoceles
  • Hormone problems - If a man has an early or late onset of puberty, problems with erections or low sexual desire, he should have his hormone levels checked.
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Retrograde flow of sperm - When the sperm is ejaculated, it travels back into the bladder and does not enter the woman’s body during intercourse. This condition may be caused by medications or occur after surgery.

Medications can also play a role in male infertility. For example, certain antacids, antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, and blood pressure medications are linked to lower sperm counts.

Varicocele
Varicocele is a bundle of engorged, varicose veins around the testicle. About 15 percent of men have this condition, which is caused by blood pooling in the scrotum. Varicocele may affect fertility because of the decrease in circulation in the testicular area. The condition causes a rise in body temperature, leading to discomfort and potentially low sperm counts. Varicocele causes decreased testicular function and is present in about 40 percent of those with male infertility. A surgical procedure can repair the abnormal collection of veins around the testes. Semen quality may be improved after treatment, as well. 

Male sexuality and fertility
Both physical and psychological issues can also lead to causes of infertility in men. Being unable to maintain an erection or to become sexually aroused can affect male fertility. For a man to be fertile, he must be able to sustain an erection, have high sperm counts, and have enough semen to carry healthy, mature sperm to fertilize an egg. If one of these components is missing, male infertility may occur

Now that you understand many of the different causes of male infertility, it is important to seek professional help from a doctor if you are experiencing infertility. A semen analysis can get you started on the road to pregnancy after male infertility.

Ask a doctor about infertility symptoms

Sources
  • NIH: Infertility/Fertility.
  • RESOLVE.org: Preventative Medicine and Male Fertility: Facts and Fiction
  • Familydoctor.org: Male Infertility.
  • Mayoclinic.com: Infertility.
  • Vorvick L, Storck, S., Zieve, D. Infertility. Medline Plus.
  • Bruce, DF, Thatcher, S., Berg, B. Making a Baby: Everything you need to know to get pregnant.