When Infertility Affects Men

Approximately a third of all infertility cases are attributed to problems with the male, while another third are due to unknown issues or problems with both the male and female. With such statistics in mind, men must be part of the conversation surrounding infertility and treatment options. When natural conception isn’t possible, men can turn to assisted reproductive technology (ART) to achieve pregnancy. A man can opt to use personal sperm, but in some cases, donor sperm can increase the chances of success.


What causes male infertility?

Sperm disorders and structural problems can both contribute to male infertility. Infections, hormone imbalances, autoimmune conditions, lifestyle factors like smoking, and genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis (CF) can affect the health of the sperm. If the sperm is abnormally shaped or unable to swim, or if there simply isn’t enough sperm present, problems with conception can occur. Structural problems can affect the genital tract, impacting the flow of the semen. Birth defects, injuries, and infections can also cause structural issues.

Understanding ART

If male fertility is impacted, help is available. ART encompasses many treatments, including intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF), designed to help a couple achieve pregnancy. Depending on the underlying fertility issue, the doctor will recommend a specific treatment plan with the highest chances of success. In many cases, men can use personal sperm during ART treatments, but a donor may be recommended in some situations.

Going the donor route

There are a few different reasons why a man would opt for a sperm donor after unsuccessfully attempting pregnancy. If a patient has azoospermia or sperm count is extremely low, a donor can help. Additionally, if the sperm ducts are blocked, donor sperm may be recommended. Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) can also benefit from using a sperm donor to get pregnant.

Selecting a donor

First, patients should understand that using donor sperm means the intended father will not share a genetic connection with the baby. Men deciding to move forward with donor sperm will likely want to vet the donor candidate for different criteria, including physical appearance and medical history since these traits can be passed down to the baby. Some men prefer to use a known donor, such as a friend or family member, while others prefer to select an anonymous donor. A fertility clinic can help connect patients with a reputable donor agency.

Preparing for insemination

Once a donor is selected, the fertility team will recommend proceeding with IUI or IVF. Intrauterine insemination is typically used when the female partner has no underlying fertility issues. With IUI, the sperm is cleaned, concentrated, and transferred directly into the uterus using a catheter. If risk factors such as previous miscarriage, older maternal age, or female fertility problems are present, IVF is more likely to result in success. IVF involves the combination of a retrieved egg and sperm in a lab. The resulting embryo is then transferred to the uterus.

Donor assisted pregnancy

Getting pregnant using a sperm donor is a good option for men who struggle with serious fertility problems. If sperm counts are low or a blockage is present, donor sperm can help. Combined with IUI or IVF, this approach can increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy.