Sexual Disorders

Male Infertility 101: Frequency, Treatments & Diagnosis

Having a child should be a natural and simple thing to do. But, not every couple will have the same opportunity to father a child.

The problem is, there are over 15% infertile couples on the globe. Despite having regular unprotected sex, they just can’t conceive. 

For a man, your fertility will massively depend on the quality and quantity of your sperm. If the semen is not good enough, it becomes incredibly taxing to have a baby. 

That’s why it’s best to learn about the fertility factors causing your reproductive issues. Including the treatment options, you can get. Here is all you need to know about male infertility and the impact of bad semen quality.

What Is Male Infertility?

Infertility in the male population is a medical complication that reduces their possibility of fathering a child. This fertility problem happens in 7% of men.

The sperm concentration and quality they ejaculate is exponentially low. This health problem indicates there is semen deficiency, which reduces the creation of viable sperm in the male body.

How Frequent Is Infertility in Men?

Infertility cases are prevalent. It’s so widespread that 12 to 13 out of 100 couples in the U.S. will have trouble fathering a child. A third of all infertility issues are in the male and a third in the female population. For younger couples below 30 years old, it’s easier to conceive. Fertility rates are high. 

What Causes Male Infertility?

According to the Fertility Center of San Antonio, many factors can contribute to male infertility.

Some of them can be treated, which can increase the odds of conception. On the other hand, others may have caused long-term damage that might affect the fertility treatment process. 

Despite popular belief that females are responsible for the failed conception, in 30% to 40% of cases, the fault rests in the male population. It’s due to male factor infertility. Infertile men have a lower than average sperm count. This can be associated with a range of different complications. 

Here are some of the most well-known factors that contribute to male infertility on the globe. 

Let’sLet’s take a closer look at each of these causes for poor fertility in detail. Semen problems in infertile men can be divided into three categories:

  • Sperm production difficulties

  • Sperm delivery difficulties

  • Environmental contributors

Sperm Production Difficulties

These are the typical factors that contribute to low sperm count in men. 

Varicocele– Varicocele can be quite the trouble. It results in dilated veins that temper with the normal cooling mechanism of the testes. That’s why a person will experience reduced motility and sperm count. While it is just 17% of the most impactful causes of male infertility, over 40% of men suffer. 


Undescended testicle– Another major factor for male infertility is the undescended testicle. When the testicles are not positioned properly, they will be exposed to very high internal temperatures. The undescended testes will massively reduce sperm production and make conception incredibly difficult. 


Hormonal Imbalance and Other Disorders– Even though they can be managed, it becomes tricky for infertile men to conceive a child. Experts believe it’s best to avoid any additional testosterone since it can further decrease the fertility rates and semen quality. For those who exercise a lot, male infertility can be a severe setback.


Azoospermia– Azoospermia is an ailment that affects the semen and doesn’t allow it to produce sperm. Azoospermia is rare and is present in 1% of the global population, as the case with obstructive azoospermia or nonobstructive azoospermia.

Infections and STDs– Contracting infections on the testes can be a serious issue for motility and sperm production. They interfere with normal bodily functions and affect blood flow. If left untreated, they can leave men completely infertile, like it is the case with STDs. They can drastically reduce sperm count over time. 

Sperm Delivery Difficulties– If the penis can’t ejaculate or deliver the sperm, it is impossible to father a child. Many factors can contribute to an issue like this. For example:

Environmental Contributors

Male infertility is not always caused by infections or health problems. Sometimes the semen issue comes from an exterior source. For example:

  • Excessive tobacco smoking

  • Substance abuse

  • Extreme body heat

  • Exposure to chemicals/pesticides

  • Stress

Note: In some individuals, the causes remain unknown. This is called unexplained infertility. 

How Does Infertility Affect Man’s Emotional Health?

Many men living with these complications will notice a sudden drop in their mental health. Their confidence and self-esteem can plummet. That’s because male fertility plays a significant role in their sense of masculinity. It affects their ego, self-worth, and self-image. 

Diagnosis

Male infertility is diagnosed with a series of tests. They often cost a lot and are not covered by an insurance company.

If you do suspect to have infertility issues, you should contact your healthcare provider. They will draft a medical plan that will help evaluate your current health state. You will undergo:

  • Semen Analysis – It starts with a sample of your semen. After ejaculating, the semen is stored in a sealed container and is taken for further analysis. The laboratory will measure sperm count and find any sperm abnormality that affects the motility or shape of the sperm. 

  • Physical Examination – This is a typical examination where the doctor will have to examine your genitals physically. They will ask if you have a history of chronic issues, like diseases, metabolic conditions, or infections. You may also be expected to express yourself openly about your sex habits to determine if they have influenced your sperm quality. 

If the results are inconclusive, your doctor may suggest additional testing. To analyze the infertility rates, you might have to do:

  • Hormone tests – Your semen quality and sexual development will greatly depend on the testes. If the hormones affect the sperm production rate, hormone testing will find all the abnormalities in the system, including the organs that result in infertility. These tests will help monitor the amount of testosterone in the system as well as other impactful hormones. 

  • Ultrasound on the scrotal area – With the help of sound waves, the test provides a clear picture of the human body’s insides. It helps determine whether there is a problem with the testes. Like from Varicocele, for example.

  • After an ejaculation, urinalysis indicates how the sperm is traveling, like the case with retrograde ejaculation. 

  • Gene testing – If there are any changes in the chromosome levels, it will reveal those genetic abnormalities. It’s used for diagnosing all kinds of congenital syndromes.

  • Testicular biopsy – The doctor will take a sample from the testicle by removing it with a needle. The sample is then taken for biopsy. The test will spot the blockages interfering with sperm transportation.

  • Sperm function testing – This test indicates how long can the patient’s sperm survive after it has been ejaculated. It will also test its efficiency in penetrating the female egg. If it can’t attach to the egg, it can’t fertilize it. So, the test will study the sperm survivability rate.

  • Ultrasound on the transrectal area – The doctor will apply some lubricant on a wand and insert it into the rectum. This will help analyze the fallopian tube and spot the blockages. Such as seminal vesicle and ejaculatory ducts.

  • Microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration is a technique that analyzes sperm count if a patient is experiencing blockages.

Treatment Possibilities for Male Infertility

After the doctor identifies the exact reason for infertility, you can get proper male infertility treatment. The type of treatment you receive will depend on the severity of the problem you are dealing with. 

But, before you do get treatment, a doctor will recommend that your partner also gets checked for female infertility. Just to ensure you can benefit from the reproductive therapies. 

Here are the treatment options you might be able to get. 

  • Hormone medication – In the case of hormonal imbalance, your doctor will prescribe hormone meds. This will help stabilize the normal hormonal production process and return the reproductive system back on track.

  • Antibiotic treatment – If the male genitals have been infected, these infections have to be treated. Otherwise, it can be incredibly difficult to restore fertility. Antibiotics can cure the infection and flush it out of the system.

  • Counseling – Patients who are dealing with emotional problems that are affecting their fertility rates will receive counseling. This can help with erectile dysfunction or similar issues. 

  • Surgical treatment – If the vas deferens has been obstructed or damaged in any way, surgery will be necessary. The treatment can reverse the damage and repair the vas deferens. It can also retrieve the sperm directly from the epididymis. Treating the vas deferens is a useful option when a person can’t ejaculate. 

  • ART Treatment (Assisted Reproductive Tech.) – If the sperm can’t attach itself easily to the egg, ART treatment and ICSI can be beneficial. This option involves ejaculating the sperm, surgically extracting it (via intrauterine insemination or testicular sperm extraction), or obtaining it from a donor. After the sperm retrieval, the semen can then be inserted into the female organ and help with the egg fertilization. Or, it could later be used during Vitro fertilization. A doctor will use an intracytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI to inject the sperm cell into the female egg. The ICSI is a typical procedure for obtaining an embryo. 

  • Vasectomy reversal – Relies on surgery to reconnect the tubes and restore semen quality after a vasectomy. If the treatment is successful, the semen can get back to normal, even post vasectomy. But, the chances for success after vasectomy are not guaranteed.

FAQ’s

1) What If The Treatment Is Not Effective?

In some individuals, male fertility can’t be cured. While it happens very rarely, it’s possible to experience this problem. If you are dealing with this kind of issue, it might be better to get a donor sperm or adopt a child. 

2) Are There Any Home Remedies for Male Fertility I Can Try?

There are a couple of remedies that can help with conception. You can try supplements or herbs that can boost fertility. A popular choice is the supplements that contain Panax ginseng, black seed, or folic acid. If nothing works, try artificial insemination.

3) Why Can’t My Sperm Mature?

If you have hormonal issues or varicocele, odds are your sperm will have trouble maturing correctly. In other cases, it could be the result of a genetic defect. To treat the problem, some might rely on in vitro maturation. But, this option is still in the early phases. 

4) How Can I Boost My Sperm Motility and Morphology?

Right now, there is no fool-proof method that can help you improve your motility or morphology. To increase your chances of conception, your doctor can suggest vitamins, exercise, and a balanced diet.

5) Are Cigarettes Affecting My Semen?

Yes. Smoking can drastically reduce semen quality. It affects the shape and movement of the sperm cells in more ways than one. With long-term usage, cigarettes can damage healthy sperm cells and DNA content. In some individuals, they can influence the seminal fluid.

6) Can My Bad Semen Quality Lead to Birth Defects?

Not really. Couples who seek fertility treatment have the exact same risk of conceiving a baby with a congenital disability, just like any other couple. The semen quality or movement has nothing to do with it. However, the child can inherit a genetic disorder. They can inherit your poor infertility if it is the result of a bad gene. 

Conclusion 

Finding out that you have serious infertility problems can be devastating. Some people might think that it’s a woman’s problem. But, it is more prevalent in men than people realize. If you want to manage this condition properly, you need to know the causes, diagnosis, and treatment. With on-time reaction, you can be able to boost your odds and conceive. 

Sources

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-infertility/symptoms-causes/syc-20374773
  2. Francesco Lotti. (2014). Ultrasound of the male genital tract in relation to male reproductive health. Oxford Academic, Volume 21. Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/humupd/article/21/1/56/614758
  3. Fertility Center of San Antonio. (2014). Male Factor Infertility Accounts for Nearly 30 Percent of All Infertility Cases. Retrieved from: https://www.fertilitysa.com/infertility-treatments/male-factor-infertility
  4. Jane R.W. Fisher. (2011). Psychological and social aspects of infertility in men: an overview of the evidence and implications for psychologically informed clinical care and future research. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3735147/
  5. Office of Population Affairs. (2019). Male Infertility. HHS. Retrieved from: https://www.hhs.gov/opa/reproductive-health/fact-sheets/male-infertility/index.html
  6. Eunice Kennedy Shriver. (2016). How common is male infertility, and what are its causes. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Retrieved from: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/menshealth/conditioninfo/infertility
  7. John Hopkins Medicine. (2020). Frequently Asked Questions About Male Infertility. Brady Urological Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/brady-urology-institute/specialties/divisions-programs/male-infertility/fertility-faqs.html

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