Male Infertility

Male Infertility

Overview of Male Infertility

Infertile is defined as not being able to conceive a child, even when trying through frequent and unprotected sexual intercourse for over the course of a year or longer. Fifteen percent of couple are defined as infertile. In nearly a third of these couple, male infertility is the cause. Male infertility can be caused by low sperm productions, blockages that prevent the delivery of the sperm, or abnormal sperm function. There are many other factors that can play a role in male infertility, which can include lifestyle choices, injuries, illnesses, or chronic health problems. Male infertility can be stressful, but there are many treatments that are available

Symptoms of Male Infertility

The most obvious symptom of male infertility is not being able to conceive a child. There may be no other symptoms or signs. In most cases, there are other problems that are occurring. These can be an inherited disorder, dilated veins around the testicle, hormonal imbalance, or conditions that block the passage of sperm.

Although there are typically not noticeable symptoms with male infertility, there are some symptoms that may be evident. First, you may notice that there are problems with your sexual function. An example of this is trouble with ejaculation, small volumes of fluid ejaculated, erectile dysfunction, or reduced sexual desire. You may also notice a decreased in facial or body hair. Other symptoms include the inability to smell, abnormal breast growth, recurrent respiratory infections, or pain in the testicle area.

It is best to see your physician if you have not been able to conceive a child after a year of regular, unprotected sexual relations. You may also want to see your physician sooner if you have groin, penis, scrotum, or testicle surgery, pain or discomfort in the testicle area, a history of sexual problems, or erection problems.

Causes of Male Infertility

Male fertility is very complex. In order to get your partner pregnant, you must have all of the following: functional sperm that moves, enough sperm in semen, healthy sperm, and sperm that are carried into the semen.

Problems with male fertility can also be caused by many health issues.

Risk Factors of Male Infertility

All of the following are linked to male infertility:

  • Taking medications or going through medical treatments
  • Having certain medical conditions
  • Being born with a fertility disorder
  • Having blood family member with fertility disorder
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Using alcohol
  • Using illicit drugs
  • Being overweight
  • Having a history of undescended testicles
  • Overheating of the testicles
  • Trauma to the testicles
  • Prior vasectomy
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Depression or being stressed
  • Past or present infections

Additionally, some lifestyles and health problems are also linked to male infertility:

  • Drug use
  • Alcohol use
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Weight
  • Depression
  • Emotional stress

Lastly, there are environmental causes to male infertility that include:

  • Overheating the testicles
  • Heavy metal exposure
  • Radiation and x-rays
  • Industrial chemicals

Complications of Male Infertility

There are many complications that go with male infertility. First of all, it can be extremely stressful for you and your partner. This stress can reduce the ability to have a child. Surgery and other procedures that are used to treat the underlying cause may reduce sperm count too. Reproductive techniques can also be very expensive.

Prevention of Male Infertility

Many types of male infertility are not preventable. It is a good practice though to know what is causing male infertility and know how to avoid those. Here are our best tips:

  • Avoid exposure to heavy metals, toxins, and pesticides
  • Do not get a vasectomy
  • Reduce stress
  • Avoid prolonged heat
  • Do not smoke
  • Abstain for alcohol
  • Do not use illicit drugs
  • Lose weight or maintain your healthy weight

Diagnosis of Male Infertility

If you are your partner believe you are infertile; having unprotected sex for over a year without conceiving, then you both may need to schedule appointments with your physicians to see what may be the cause of the infertility. Diagnosing male infertility may involve any of the following tests.

The first step of diagnosing male infertility is to schedule a physical examination with one of our physicians. During this time, your physician will ask about any health problems, illnesses, injuries, surgeries, or family health history. Your physician may look further into your sexual habits and your development during puberty.

A semen analysis may be ordered next, and can be obtained through a variety of ways. You can provide a sample at the physician's office. Some people do not believe in this, and in some cases the semen can be collected in a special condom during intercourse. After the semen has been collected, it will be sent to the lab to measure the number of sperm present and also test for any abnormalities. Abnormalities can be present in shape (morphology) or movement (motility).

After these two initial examinations are complete, your physician may recommend further testing.

The first is a scrotal ultrasound, which uses high-frequency sound waves to see inside of the body.

Hormone testing will check for testosterone and hormone levels.

A post-ejaculation urinalysis checks for sperm in the urine. If there is sperm in the urine, this can mean that the sperm is travelling backward into the bladder instead of out of the penis during ejaculation. This is considered retrograde ejaculation.

A transrectal ultrasound is a test where a small wand is inserted into the rectum and allows the physician to check the prostate and look for any blockages that are in the tubes that carry semen.

Specialized sperm function tests can be done in a few different ways. This is done to see how well the sperm survive after ejaculation, and how well they can penetrate an egg. This test is rarely done as there is no change in recommendation to treatment based on this.

A testicular biopsy involves removing samples from the testicle though a needle. If this test shows that the sperm production is normal, your diagnosis is likely a blockage or another problem with sperm transport.

The last test that is ran is a genetic test. In some cases, when the sperm concentration is low, there may be genetic causes. A blood test revels if there are changes in the Y chromosome, which is a sign that there is a genetic abnormality. This may be done to diagnose a congenital or inherited syndrome.

Treatment of Male Infertility

In most cases, a diagnosis is not identified for male infertility. Even if there is not a true cause, your physician will still have recommendations on how to treat it. In infertility, it is important to also have your female partner checked. Surgery is the most common treatment for male infertility. The various surgeries include: reversing a vasectomy, varicocele, or sperm-retrieval.

Assisted reproductive technology, or ART, is where sperm is obtained through normal ejaculation, surgical extraction, or sperm donors. Then the sperm is inserted into the female genital tract.

Hormone treatments and medications are recommended when infertility is caused by high or low levels of hormones.

If infertility is caused by sexual intercourse problems such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, then you may need a medication or counseling.

Lastly, if infertility is caused by an infection, then your physician will treat the infection.

In some cases, this does not change the infertility problem. In some cases, infertility cannot be treated. Your physician will talk you through your next options if this is the case.

Home Remedies for Male Infertility

There are some steps that can be taken at home to increase your chances of conceiving a child. The first is to increase the amount of unprotected sex you are having. If you are having sexual intercourse every day or every other day during your partner's ovulation, then you are at a higher risk for conceiving. When you are having sexual intercourse, do not use lubricants as they will limit the sperm movement and function. Your physician can help pick safe ones if necessary.

Support with Male Infertility

It is important to set limits for yourself when dealing with male infertility. Decide before you meet with your physician about how many treatments you are willing to do. This conversation should be open with your partner. Tell your partner how you are feeling. It is important to manage your stress during this time too. Find someone that has gone through the same thing, even if it is a support group. It is important to talk through what you are going through.

Summary of Male Infertility

Infertility in couples is common and can be caused by male infertility. It is important to speak with your physician as soon as you realize you may be dealing with this. There are many tests that can be done to see the cause of infertility. Treatments will be done based on these and your preferences. Know what your limits are with treatments and keep this communication open with your partner and your physician. It is also important for your partner to be examined as it may be female infertility.

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