Infertility affects men and women equally. With ~40 percent of infertile couples, the male partner is either the sole cause or a contributing cause of infertility.

Dear reader,

You are not alone. Statistics suggest that 35 to 40 percent of infertility concerns are due to the male partner, especially amongst older men. More than a third (34%) of men over the age of 40 report having one or more reproductive health issues. 

Did you know that the man's contribution to fertilization is quite amazing?

According to Deb Levine, MA (WebMD Feature), about 200 million sperm are mixed with semen to form ejaculate.

With most men, 15 to 45 million of these sperm are healthy enough to fertilize an egg, although only 400 survive after a man ejaculates.

Only 40 of those 400 reach the vicinity of the egg, having survived the toxic environment of the semen and the hostile environment of the vagina. 


When infertility is a concern, the problem is often thought  to lie within the woman's body and the possibility of the man being infertile is rarely considered. Women should go through the proper testing to determine if a medical reason exists in preventing a desired pregnancy, but men also have a responsibility to consider that the problem could lie with them.

Men oftentimes are uncomfortable discussing personal infertility and can experience fear and shame because of impotence. Men may even refuse to admit an infertility problem exists. It's understandable if you consider the time, expense and testing necessary to determine one's fertility status, along with the possibility that the medical community may not be able to resolve or improve his fertility.

There are no statistics that show how many couples have divorced due to their inability to have a baby but unfortunately, about a third of infertility problems are due to male infertility. 

If a pregnancy has not occurred after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse, then both partners should be tested. It is recommended that you be tested sooner if the woman is over the age of 35 or either partner has a known risk factor for infertility. Sadly, there are times when testing does not reveal the cause of a couples infertility but does reveal other serious medical issues such as genetic mutations, cancer or diabetes.

Risk Factors For Male Infertility Include:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Aging
  • Lifestyle factors such as smoking & substance abuse
  • Long-term use of certain chemicals, medications and toxins
  • Varicocele, which is an enlarged varicose vein in the spermatic cord connected to the testicle

More than 90% of male infertility cases are due to: 

-low sperm count & movement

-poor sperm quality/abnormal sperm shape

-anatomical problems/problems getting an erection

-hormonal imbalances

-genetic defects

Tests for male infertility include:

-genetic testing to identify sperm DNA fragmentation

-chromosomal defects

-genetic diseases

-semen analysis to evaluate the quantity and quality of sperm

-blood tests to evaluate hormone levels

-imaging/ultrasound tests to look for structural problems

 

Treatment and more:

-drug therapy may be used to treat hormonal disorders

-surgery may be necessary to repair varicoceles 

-surgery may be necessary to correct any obstructions in the reproductive tract

-intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) in combination with in vitro fertilization (IVF)

 

Requested lifestyle changes:

-timing and monitoring sexual activity for best results

-avoid cigarettes and any drugs that may affect sperm count or reduce sexual function

-overweight men should try to reduce their weight as obesity may be associated with infertility

-excessive exercise can impair fertility

-stress reduction techniques can improve fertility

-wear loose fitting clothes

-prevent overheating of the testes/avoid hot baths, steam rooms & hot showers

-avoid the use of sexual lubricants (Astroglide, K-Y Jelly) 

*Specific Therapy is the most successful medical therapy for male infertility - involves reversing chemical, infectious or endocrine imbalances.

Resources:

www.asrm.org -- American Society for Reproductive Medicine

www.urologyhealth.org -- American Urological Association

www.theafa.org -- American Fertility Association

www.sart.org -- Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology

www.cdc.gov/ART/ -- Centers for Disease Control: Assisted Reproductive Technology Report