What Causes Male Infertility?
Infertility affects up to 12-13% of couples in the U.S. It is a fairly common challenge, with a wide variety of causes. Many cases can't be ascribed to just one partner, but are instead a multi-faceted issue with contributing factors from both partners. However, it's estimated that, for a third of couples, challenges are related to issues with male fertility. Let's look at some of the more common male infertility causes and treatment approaches.
What causes male infertility?
For conception to occur, a number of complex processes need to take place. In the male reproductive system, healthy sperm must be produced and stored. After ejaculation, this sperms must travel to the partner's uterus and fallopian tubes.
Infertility itself as defined as being unable to conceive after trying for more than 12 months (for women under 35) or six months (if the woman is over 35). If any area of the reproductive system is damaged or blocked—from the testicles to vas deferens and beyond—it can cause infertility challenges. If there are issues related to sperm movement, shape, or count, it can also lead to male fertility challenges.
Many causes of male infertility are treatable with proper diagnosis, as we'll discuss. Your first and best step is to talk to a fertility specialist about your challenges. They'll run fertility tests to identify the underlying cause of your infertility.
These are the most common male infertility causes.
1. Issues with sperm and semen quality
In the vast majority of cases, male infertility is related to issues with the semen or sperm. This may include:
- Low sperm count
- Poor sperm motility (i.e., sperm does not swim well)
A semen analysis is vital to diagnosing this cause of male infertility. You can learn more about what to expect and how to prepare for your semen analysis here.
2. Reproductive system issues
Apart from issues with overall sperm health and semen condition, there are also issues with the reproductive system that may make men infertile or less likely to conceive successfully.
These male infertility causes include:
- Problems with ejaculation, or retrograde ejaculation
- Erectile dysfunction
- Hormonal imbalances
- Negative side effects from medications
- Issues from previous surgeries
- Undescended testicles
- Autoimmune disorders in which sperm gets attacked by antibodies
- Tumors that affect the male reproductive organs
3. Health conditions
Any chronic health condition that causes stress and damage to the body can lead to male infertility. These may include:
- Certain rare genetic conditions
- Cancer (and cancer-related treatments)
- Cystic fibrosis
4. Lifestyle risk factors
Lifestyle problems can also contribute to male infertility problems or feed into health issues that result in male infertility. These include:
- Exposure to industrial chemicals and excessive radiation
- Obesity and morbid obesity
- Smoking and use of other tobacco products
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Use of illegal drugs
- Chronic and excessive stress
- Overheating of the testicles (e.g., tight trousers, prolonged bicycling, and frequent hot tub use)
How to treat male infertility causes
For lifestyle risk factors, you can boost your chances of natural conception by improving overall health and avoiding unhealthy behaviors. Your doctor can discuss some of the best ways for you to reduce your risk factors.
If you have health issues leading to your infertility, speak with your general practitioner as soon as possible. They can suggest treatments, or treatment adjustments, based on your unique challenges. By treating or managing a chronic condition, it can help you improve general wellness and boost fertility in the process.
Finally, if your infertility challenges stem from a reproductive issue, there are a number of options. Some male infertility causes, such as infections or hormonal imbalances, can be fixed with medications. Others, like varicoceles, resolve with a short procedure.
If you're still having troubles conceiving, there are numerous assisted reproduction treatment options based on the nature of your challenges. This may include sperm donation or in vitro fertilization (IVF), one of the most popular fertility treatments available.
Learn more about male fertility options
If you're in Louisiana or our neighboring states, we encourage you to reach out to The Fertility Institute with your questions. Our Louisiana fertility clinic team can help diagnose the cause of your fertility challenges and suggest treatment approaches that work. They'll answer your questions and provide guidance so you can make the best possible decision for your needs and situation.
Our entire team here looks forward to meeting you in person and helping you achieve the very best results. We are here to help you to start the family of your dreams, just like we've done for our patients for over 30 years.
Call or message us online to book your appointment!
Originally posted on May 30, 2014.