Male Infertility

What Causes Infertility in Men?

Starting a family is an exciting time in your life, which is why it can be so crushing when you or your partner fail to become pregnant after months of trying. Are you researching infertility clinics? Understand that both the person getting pregnant and the person supplying the sperm may contribute to problems with infertility. 

Semen Analysis

When you seek care for male infertility, one of the first things your doctor will ask you to do is provide a semen sample. Your specialist will narrow down possible causes based on the qualities of your sample. Semen analysis can’t tell you everything but is a good starting point. Many infertility clinics can perform semen analysis in-office, including MCRM Fertility.

The two most important aspects of sperm are their ability to move, called motility, and how many there are in a sample, which is the count. The WHO has determined normal values for motility and count of sperm. Your specialist will evaluate your sample and find out if it falls within the normal range.

If it does not, you, your partner, and your doctor will discuss the next steps. Understand that motility and number of sperm don’t have an impact on quality. Sperm that provide good genetic material are more valuable than sperm that can move well. 

Health Concerns

Male factor infertility can be broken down into health, environmental, and lifestyle reasons. About half of all male factor cases do not have a known cause. Of the other cases, about a third are caused by issues with sperm creation, ten to twenty percent are because of sperm transport problems, and about two percent are caused by hormonal issues outside of the testes.

Sperm Creation

One role of a sperm is to carry DNA information to an egg and begin the process of cell reproduction. If the DNA contained within a sperm has any chromosomal defects, it is unlikely to cause pregnancy. Sperm defects are common and usually nothing to worry about. However, if there are fewer sperm in a sample or if a large number have problems with their DNA, it could cause problems with fertility.   MCRM Fertility offers in-clinic Sperm DNA Fragmentation testing in order to evaluate the DNA integrity of one’s sperm.

One other duty of sperm is to reach the egg. After sperm is ejaculated within the vaginal cavity, it begins the process of capacitation. This allows the sperm to better move and penetrate the egg. Sperm will not be able to reach or fertilize the egg if they cannot begin capacitation. The ability to enter capacitation is a factor of the sperm itself, not its environment.

Sperm creation can also be impacted if the male partner has an undescended testicle. To create sperm, the testes need to be a few degrees cooler than our healthy body temperature. This is why the scrotum holds the testes away from the body at a cooler temperature. If a testicle does not descend, it cannot produce quality sperm. These days, undescended testes are almost always identified and treated in infants. For some babies, the testicle will descend as they age. For others, treatment with surgery may be needed. If you are an adult with this issue, you should talk to your doctor to learn more about available options.

Sperm Transport

If sperm are healthy and viable, then the problem could be with transporting the sperm from the male partner to the female partner’s reproductive system. One diagnosis that can cause a problem with sperm transport is called varicocele. Varicocele is an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum. It is similar to varicose veins that you see in your lower legs. Doctors suspect that varicocele can cause poor blood and oxygen flow to the scrotum. Such conditions can cause the temperature to rise, which stops the creation of healthy sperm. Varicocele can be treated with surgery. Talk with a specialist to see if this is an option for you. 

Another reason that sperm may not reach their destination is retrograde ejaculation. This occurs when sperm enter the bladder during ejaculation instead of exiting through the urethra. Retrograde ejaculation is not painful and does not cause any side effects besides infertility. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help or assign you exercises to strengthen your pelvic muscles.

If you or your partner have had trauma to their testes, this could also be a reason for infertility. Testicular torsion, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment are all potential reasons. You’ll need to go over your medical history with your fertility expert so that they can get a full picture of your reproductive health.

Lifestyle Impacts

Many people are familiar with the impacts that lifestyle changes can have on fertility. The onus is often placed on the female partner for lifestyle changes. Male partners can make impactful changes too. One of the best things you can do to improve your chances of getting pregnant is to give up substances that can have negative effects on fertility.

Researchers have shown that smoking can contribute to a low sperm count. This is true for both cigarettes and other drugs like cannabis. People trying to get pregnant should abstain from drugs and alcohol because of the impact they can have on sperm count and quality. 

Being overweight can also cause problems with fertility, both for men and women. For men, extra weight can affect their hormone levels and affect sperm quality. Your doctor will also ask you to make changes to your lifestyle. They will tell you to stay out of hot tubs or saunas since the heat can have negative effects on sperm production.

Medications, Especially Testosterone Therapy

Medications can contribute to male infertility.  In particular, testosterone use often leads to lower sperm counts and motility.

Infertility Clinics Are Here to Help

We understand it can be frustrating for you and your partner to find negative pregnancy tests month after month. If you have concerns about fertility, it may be time to seek out an expert. At MCRM Fertility, we understand that you will have questions, and we want to help you with any concerns that you have. Treating infertility can be a journey, and you need the best team on your side. Give us a call today to learn more and to craft your personal plan for your journey to parenthood.

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