About 13% of couples trying to conceive a baby cannot do so. There are numerous causes of female and male infertility. In over a third of infertility cases, the issue is with the man. This is usually due to problems with sperm quality and quantity, or sperm delivery.
For couples who have been trying to get pregnant without success for a period of a year, and they have been having regular sex (least twice a week), it’s worth seeking professional help.
Both the man and woman should be tested for reproductive problems at the same time. Once the problem has been identified, then a fertility plan can be made for the couple.
For this reason, we have collated articles addressing the common causes of infertility in men and provided information and courses of action that men can take to increase fertility.
How Common is Male infertility?
There’s a general misconception that women are more likely to have problems with their infertility than men, when in reality around one-third of infertility cases are caused by female reproductive issues, one-third by male reproductive issues and one-third by a combination of the two or an unrelated factor.
Around 1 in 20 males have low levels of sperm which may contribute to infertility issues.
What Are Some of the Common Causes of Male Infertility?
Some of the main causes of fertility problems in men include:
Varicocele refers to the swelling of the veins surrounding the testicle. This can lead to reduced quantity of sperm and lower the quality of the remaining sperm.
This is the most common form of infertility for males, with approximately 15 out of 100 men having it and luckily, is a reversible process.
Retrograde Ejaculation –
Ejaculation issues such as retrograde ejaculation, when semen enters the bladder instead of exiting through the tip of the penis during an orgasm, can be caused through a variety of separate health issues.
Such issues include diabetes, spinal injuries and certain medications and surgeries around the genital area.
Infections related to STI/STDs can cause scarring that has the potential to interfere with sperm health and movement by blocking the passage sperm travels through to reach the egg. Other infections, such as epididymitis and orchitis can also lead to male infertility problems.
Fortunately, similar to female infections, infertility may be prevented by getting tested and treated as early into the conception process as possible.
Hormone imbalances –
Hormonal problems that can sometimes be linked to over and underweight men, or abnormalities affecting other hormonal systems, can decrease or even halt sperm production in a male.
Having low testosterone is just one example of a common hormonal imbalance in men.
Sperm flow blockage –
There are various causes and conditions for the tubes that transport sperm to be blocked, which can cause fertility problems as lower or even no numbers of sperm are able to be transported through such tubes.
Causes can look like infections as noted above, along with trauma or unique development of the testicles, such as cystic fibrosis. However, it’s common for blockages to be fixed with just a simple surgery.
Environmental factors –
Sperm function or production may also be impacted by environmental factors such as exposure to various chemicals, heavy metals, radiation and excessive heat. Along with lifestyle factors like men being over or underweight, or mental and physical stress on their bodies.
What Are the Symptoms of Male Infertility?
Symptoms of male infertility may not have any obvious signs apart from the ability to conceive.
However, if there are symptoms to be detected they may look like problems with sexual functions, such as not being able to ejaculate, erectile disfunction or only ejaculating small amounts of fluid.
Other signs include any lumps, swelling or pain in the testicle area, less facial or body hair than usual, or a sperm count that is below average. If a man has received severe blunt force to the genital areas, it may be an appropriate incentive to get things checked out with a medical professional.
Does the Chance of Male Infertility Increase with Age?
Unlike women, who have a certain number of non-renewable eggs to work with, men have the ability to create around 200 million fresh new sperm every single day. This means the chance for infertility problems due to sperm running low naturally isn’t a problem most men have to face unless there are other factors at play.
However, research does show that male infertility can be affected by age, in that the likelihood for a man 35 and under to conceive naturally is 25% higher than males over the age of 40. This is due to the ability for sperm to move towards the egg, and the general health of sperm decreasing.
Also, the volume and quality of semen produced may be lower particularly with males over the age of 45, influencing male infertility.
How does smoking, alcohol and drugs affect infertility in men?
Smoking and alcohol intake around conception periods tend to have a strong influence on male fertility problems. For example, a study (PubMed.com) was conducted with a variety of males that showed men came up with a decreased sperm count when subject to heavy smoking, and men who increased their alcohol intake were more likely to have an abnormal core structure of their sperm, all affecting fertility health.
Other things that may also reduce the ability to naturally conceive include drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin, as they are known to lead to a lower libido and testosterone levels.
Drugs such as steroids can cause a man’s testes to shrink and in turn halt sperm production. Recovery from this can take up to two years.
It is worth mentioning that a man who is having difficulty conceiving should always talk to their health-care professional about potential causes and solutions.
However, natural conception for men can be encouraged through remedies noted here. Along with this extensive review of Lisa Olsen’s Pregnancy Miracle Program, a 6-week program to help natural pregnancy, found here.