Navigating Male-Factor Infertility

In men, infertility is becoming a rising concern. Men and couples looking to start or grow a family are sometimes shocked to discover an underlying issue stopping natural conception. Statistics show that male-factor infertility is the reason for almost half of infertility cases. Infertility occurs when an individual or couple is unable to have children naturally after at least 12 months of consistent attempts. There are many different causes for male-factor infertility. When the time comes for family planning, a deeper understanding of the causes can help men and couples get treatment or fertility support.


Sperm-related disorders

A successful pregnancy is determined by sufficient healthy sperm traveling and fertilizing a released egg in the woman's fallopian tubes. The newly formed embryo then travels to the uterine lining, where pregnancy begins. Infertility in men is often due to sperm-related disorders. A healthy sperm count starts from 15-200 million sperm per 1 mL of semen. Low sperm count or an absence of sperm are the primary causes of infertility. Poor sperm motility or abnormal sperm shape (morphology) can also lead to difficulty conceiving. Doctors review sperm samples under a microscope to uncover and diagnose any male-factor issues. In some cases, varicocele, a blockage due to enlarged veins in the scrotum, can impact sperm quality and quantity.

Hormone-related disorders

Various hormones play a vital role in the reproductive process for both men and women. Men need a healthy combination of testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH) for sperm production. FSH is responsible for sperm cell maturation, while LH helps with testosterone production. Low testosterone may lead to erectile dysfunction (ED) and can cause low sex drive. A lack of hormone harmony can lead to fertility problems. Sometimes, the hormone issue is linked to thyroid dysfunction, underlying diseases, or medication use.

Your lifestyle and infertility

There are many external factors and lifestyle dangers that lead to infertility. These issues impact hormone production or create an internal environment where sperm production cannot thrive. For instance, smoking, excessive alcohol, and recreational drug use all contribute to infertility. Studies show high stress levels can create excess cortisol, limiting reproductive hormones. Other external factors include toxins from plastics or certain work environments. In many cases, a combination of issues leads to fertility challenges.

Less common causes

Even with optimal health and wellness, some men have unique or rare issues that lead to infertility. A congenital issue, like undescended testicles, can lead to the inability to produce sperm. Some infections, sexually transmitted or otherwise, can lead to inflammation and damage of the testicular tubes that transport sperm. Testicular cancer or chemotherapy treatment can lead to permanent damage to the reproductive organs. If male-factor infertility is expected, the first step is to speak with a doctor to try to identify the underlying reason.

What's the solution, doc?

A reproductive specialist can help by evaluating the results of blood tests, a sperm sample, and a physical exam to determine the root cause of male-factor infertility. Some cases respond well to surgery or hormone medication. Lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, diet, exercise, and stress reduction can also increase sperm production and subsequently help men conceive naturally. If there is no improvement, consider fertility treatment. Assisted reproductive technology (ART), like in vitro fertilization (IVF), is an effective option for male infertility. There are also advanced techniques like intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) that use a single sperm to fertilize harvested or donated eggs. These solutions take time and effort but are considered the most effective forms of treatment for severe infertility.

Infertility has an answer

There are multiple underlying causes for male infertility. The goal is to find out what's impacting sperm production or the efficient delivery of sperm. Once uncovered, there are different treatment options available. Men who work closely with fertility specialists often see fantastic results. However, in the event initial treatments fail, IVF and ICSI are possible. Infertility in men can be emotionally distressing, with some men hiding the issue due to fear or shame. With a good support system and the help of a fertility doctor, the joys of parenthood are possible.