Infertility means that couples are unable to conceive although they have regular intercourse without any form of contraception for over a year. Infertility in men is a factor in at least 50 percent of such cases.
Male infertility can occur due to low sperm count, low sperm motility, abnormal morphology or defect/blockages in seminal ducts that prevent sperm cells from reaching the oocyte. Chronic diseases and health issues can indirectly cause infertility in men.
The inability to have a child may be a source of stress and anger, but there are several treatments to solve the problem of infertility in men.
Male Infertility meaning
Male infertility is the difficulty of some couples to conceive. Semen quality depends on the amount of sperm cells per ml, the ability of sperm cells to move forward and their morphology. Problems in any of these mentioned factors can influence conception negatively. If a couple has been having regular intercourse for over a year without using any form of contraceptive, they should consult their doctor.
Male infertility symptoms
The inability to conceive is a tangible sign of male infertility. Additional symptoms that could indicate that the delay in pregnancy has a male factor causing it could be the inability to have an erection, late or early ejaculation, pain or swelling of the testicles and loss of facial and body hair that could reflect hormonal or chromosomal disorders. However, there may be no other clear indications or symptoms.
Male infertility causes
There are two types of male infertility causes
A varicocele is an enlargement of veins responsible for transporting oxygen depleted blood away from the testicles. This enlargement causes a stagnation of blood in the testicles and a warmer basal temperature of the scrotum. These changes could affect sperm production and quality.
Inflammation or Infection
There are some types of infection or inflammation that lead to testicular duct problems, abrasions can cause these ducts to partially or totally get blocked. This inflammation can be caused by infections sexually transmitted such as syphilis or gonorrhea. There are also systemic diseases that can cause inflammation affecting the testicles such as rubella. Prostatitis can also block sperm transportation ducts.
Retrograde ejaculation could be the reason for little semen or no semen coming out during a male orgasm. The semen instead of being emerged out of the body through the penis enters the bladder. This condition is not harmful but can cause infertility.
Other factors that can cause ejaculation problems;
- Chronic disease such as diabetes, atherosclerosis etc.
- Neurological; spinal injuries, multiple sclerosis or other diseases affecting the body’s neuro system.
- A Side effect of medication
- A complication of surgery or bladder injuries
Antibodies that attack sperm
Sperm antibodies are as the name says it antibodies produced by the immune system that attack sperms mistakenly taking them to be foreign invaders.
Different types of cancer that affect the overall health can indirectly cause problems in male fertility or directly if the tumor is close to or in tissues that affect the male reproductive system.
Testicular atrophy occurs when the testes shrink. Testes are male reproductive glands where sperm is produced. The testes shrink due to loss of germ cells (produce sperm) and Leydig cells (produce testosterone). This in turn influences the sperm cell production and fertility.
Male infertility can be caused by hormone producing disorders in the testes or from a defect in other hormonal systems, such as the pituitary gland, thyroid gland and adrenal gland.
Unbalanced or no production of any of these hormones can lead to a disorder in sperm production.
Genetic disorders that lead to poor or abnormal development of internal and external genitalia usually influence fertility.
Some environmental elements such as chemicals and toxins can negatively affect sperm production and quality such as exposure to pesticides, radiation and toxic metals,
Other lifestyle factors include smoking, drinking, drug use, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and weight gain or being underweight.
Types of male infertility
Male infertility can be caused by;
- low sperm production
- sperm that does not function normally in terms of motility or due to abnormal morphology
- Blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm
Male infertility test
When suspicion arises that there could be a factor of male infertility the following steps should be taken:
1. General physical examination and medical history
This includes a genital examination, medical history taking about any genetic condition, chronic health problems, previous diseases or surgeries that may affect fertility. Your doctor may also ask about your sexual development during puberty
You will be asked to provide a semen sample for examination. There is a private room at your doctor’s clinic where you can provide the sample, or you can be given a cup to provide it at home with instructions on how to keep it well and return it. The semen will be tested for count of sperm cells per ml, their motility and shape (morphology).