Did you know that 1/3 of couples who struggle to get pregnant can’t conceive because of male infertility?
Up until now, you might have only heard about female reproductive problems. These days, there seems to be a lot of talk surrounding female infertility — what it is, how to correct it and ways to cope. Male infertility, however, is just as common, but many people aren’t aware of its causes or potential solutions.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with male infertility — or you suspect that it may be the reason you and your partner haven’t been able to conceive — you might be struggling with how to process this. Or maybe you weren’t even aware there was a problem.
If this sounds like you, then the best thing you can do is get educated. Understanding what you’re facing is the first step to finding a solution and starting the family you’ve always wanted.
What Causes Male Infertility?
The term “male infertility” is an umbrella term that refers to a problem with a man’s ability to produce or deliver sperm to fertilize his partner’s egg. There are a number of things that can cause male infertility, but the most common causes and risk factors include the following.
1. Lifestyle Choices
Drinking alcohol, doing illegal drugs or smoking are all huge risk factors for male infertility because these substances can cause low numbers of sperm and decrease sperm mobility. In some cases, certain prescription medications may also impact a man’s sperm count and sperm mobility.
Other lifestyle choices that can adversely affect a man’s fertility include often eating an unhealthy diet and not getting regular exercise.
2. Health Conditions
If you’re faced with a long-term illness, such as kidney failure, or you suffered from certain childhood illnesses, such as mumps, your reproductive system may not be working quite properly.
Sometimes men may also experience a blockage that prevents sperm from traveling through the reproductive system and leaving their body during sex. When sperm can’t leave the body, it can’t reach the egg to complete the fertilization process. This issue can be caused by a variety of factors, including birth defects, injury or even an illness.
Other causes of male infertility include low testosterone, chromosomal abnormalities, enlarged veins in the testicles and retrograde ejaculation. There is also a condition called immunologic infertility where a man’s antibodies identify his sperm as foreign substances and attack them.
How Can You Determine Male Infertility?
If you and your partner have been unsuccessful in your attempts to get pregnant, it’s important for both of you to be examined for infertility. There are several different medical tests that can be used to determine the source of male infertility, but initially, men undergo two primary phases of testing.
1. Medical History and Physical Exam
Your doctor will conduct an in-depth exam, beginning with an investigation into your medical history. They will want to know what medications you’re on, what health conditions you have experienced throughout your life and any lifestyle factors that might be impacting your ability to conceive.
They will also ask questions about your sex life, including questions about your ability to get and maintain an erection. Then, they will examine you to look for any obvious physical issues that might be present. This process can be uncomfortable, but this is an important step toward ruling out certain conditions and shedding light on what’s preventing you and your partner from conceiving.
2. Semen Analysis
The semen analysis occurs twice in order to study the makeup of the semen and determine whether sperm is making its way into your semen. Semen for this lab test is obtained when you ejaculate into a cup in the privacy of your doctor’s office. Although many men find the idea of a semen analysis to be awkward, it is a vital part of identifying problems with sperm production, including determining whether or not sperm are moving as they’re supposed to. A semen analysis can also evaluate the number of sperm and quality to better identify the source of infertility.
How Common Is Male Infertility?
Infertility is often viewed as a women’s issue, but the truth is that roughly 20 percent of cases of infertility are due to male infertility. In 10-15 percent of male infertility cases, the cause of their infertility is a lack of sperm. This can be attributed to a variety of conditions, including a blockage, hormonal imbalance or varicocele, which is an enlarged vein in the testicle. In fact, varicocele is present in 40 percent of male infertility cases.
What Can You Do About Male Infertility?
If you’ve been diagnosed with male infertility, naturally your next question is: “What can I do about it?” The answer to this question and the treatment options available depends on the reason for your infertility. If your doctor determines that your infertility has been caused by a blockage, hormonal imbalance or medication you’re taking, they can work with you to correct the problem and remove this issue from preventing pregnancy.
If there isn’t a way to correct the problem, then you and your partner may be candidates for in vitro fertilization, a procedure where your sperm will be removed and used to fertilize your partner’s egg in a lab, then placed into your partner’s uterus.
As we mentioned before, even if you suspect that male infertility has prevented you and your partner from starting a family, it’s important that both of you be tested. One-third of all infertility cases can be attributed to infertility issues in both partners. This means there may be more than one reason you aren’t getting pregnant. It’s important to know what is causing the problem so that your medical team can offer practical and informed solutions.
Treatment Options and Western Fertility Institute
If you’ve received a diagnosis of male infertility, this isn’t the end of your journey. It’s only the beginning. When you have a diagnosis, it opens the door to new options you might not have considered before. At Western Fertility Institute, our experienced team of medical professionals is committed to finding personalized solutions that improve your chances of starting a family.
In some cases, you may simply need to make certain lifestyle changes to improve your chances of conceiving. In other cases, you may require medication or medical treatment to correct another medical problem you weren’t aware of. Whatever the solution, we’re committed to walking you through each step of the way.
For more information about our Los-Angeles-based clinic, contact us at 888-261-4574 or schedule an appointment today.
This content was medically reviewed by the Western Fertility Institute medical team on December 9, 2019.