Male Infertility Overview
Trying to start a family and worried about male infertility? Admittedly, all it takes is one sperm to get pregnant. But that sperm has to perform at its best.
When the word infertility is mentioned, few people think of male infertility. Many assume it is the woman's "fault." But 40 percent of infertility causes are attributed to the man (called male factor). That’s why it’s important for all “fathers to be” to learn more about male fertility and get their reproductive system checked by a doctor—just to make sure all the parts are working as they should.
The sperm's role
Although it seems quite simple for a sperm to fertilize an egg, the process is quite precise. A man's body must be able to fulfill the following criteria for natural conception to occur:
- Sustain an erection
- Produce enough healthy sperm that are the right shape and can move in the proper ways
- Produce sperm in the ejaculate to be emitted during intercourse
Problems that disrupt this chain of events reduce the chances of pregnancy. To find out whether your man parts are working right, ask your doctor for a semen analysis.
Causes of male infertility
Many factors resulting in male infertility can be diagnosed and treated, such as structural defects, problems with ejaculation and sperm, and immunologic conditions.
Problems that may reduce the health or number of sperm and increase the chances of male infertility include:
- Alcohol, drug use or smoking
- Certain medications
- Environmental toxins
- Genetic conditions
- Chemotherapy / radiation
Diagnosing male infertility
Often, there are no visible signs of male infertility. That’s why it’s important to have an open discussion with your doctor, urologist or a fertility specialist. Tell your doctor about your medical history, including past illnesses, medications, and surgeries. Also give current information about your lifestyle habits, diet, exercise, and any drug or alcohol abuse. Your doctor may order a semen analysis (SA). This is the single most important test for male fertility.
How is male infertility treated?
Some types of male infertility can be medically or surgically treated. If you are taking a medication that increases the risk of male infertility, your doctor may switch you to another medication. Also, STDs such as gonorrhea and Chlamydia can lower sperm count and mobility. Your doctor will test for STDs and provide medication if needed. In addition, when trying to get pregnant, it’s important to avoid toxins, alcohol, cigarettes, and other known hazards that may injure your sperm.
See a fertility specialist
Concerned about male fertility? The best route is a quick referral to a fertility center. A reproductive endocrinologist (RE) receives training in both female and male infertility and may be the best professional to explain your testing options.
The bottom line: Learn all you can about male infertility and take action.Sources
- WomensHealth.gov: Infertility
- FamilyDoctor.org: Male Infertility
- NIH: Infertility/Fertility
- RESOLVE: Frequency Asked Questions about Infertility
- RESOLVE: Male Factor Problems
- RESOLVE: Varicocele
- Bruce DF, Thatcher, S., Berg, B. Making a Baby: Everything you need to know to get pregnant.