Infertility in men is about as common as infertility in women. Infertility is described as the inability to conceive after about one year of sexual intercourse without the use of contraceptives. If age is a factor, then you may want to consult a doctor or infertility specialist after about six months of trying, as fertility decreases with age. Some causes for infertility can be harder to treat the longer they are left without intervention, so don’t hesitate to seek advice early if you suspect that infertility may be a factor for you.
Many things can cause infertility in men. Illness, disease, injury, obstruction in the tubes of the testes, diet, weight and activity levels are only some of the causes of male infertility. Common causes of infertility are low sperm count, dysfunctional or immobile sperm, and impaired sperm delivery. Men can be born with some of these conditions, or they can develop them later in life.
When determining the cause of infertility in a couple, the man and woman should be examined. The procedures for examining male infertility are generally simple and non-invasive. Your doctor will check for sperm production, irregularities in the testes, and hormonal imbalances among other possible causes. A semen analysis will tell if the ejaculate has adequate seminal fluid to allow for sperm movement. The sperm will be checked for number of sperm, the shape and structure of the sperm, mobility, seminal fluid and total volume or amount of ejaculate.
If there is no sperm present in the seminal fluid, then it is termed azoospermia. This can be caused by a malformation in the testes or a possible obstruction in one of the ducts necessary to deliver the sperm effectively into the ejaculate. If sperm is present in the fluid, then it will be tested for abnormalities. If a significant number of sperm are abnormal, then they can be a cause for infertility. Your infertility specialist may wish to perform a sperm-mucus interaction test. This test will determine if the sperm are able to live within and move through cervical mucus and thus, through the female reproductive system.
Your doctor may also wish to conduct a sperm penetration assay. This will determine your sperm’s ability to latch on and penetrate an egg’s outer layer. Infection, disease and illness will be looked for. These things can affect your testosterone and sperm production.
About half of all male infertility cases can be treated through assisted reproduction. Your infertility specialist will determine which treatments will be best for you depending on your situation. If there is a neurological reason that ejaculate can not be obtained, such as spinal cord injury, then you may be a candidate for electroejaculation. This process stimulates the body to excrete semen. If an obstruction, injury or deformity is present, then a surgeon can sometimes retrieve sperm surgically from the sperm duct. Sometimes this procedure can be conducted with a needle and surgery isn’t required. Sperm washing refers to the method that mixes sperm with a washing medium, and concentrates the healthiest sperm into an inert buffered fluid that can be used for intrauterine insemination, increasing your chances of conception.
Talk with your doctor and infertility specialist about possible causes and treatments of male infertility. Remember that about half of all infertile men can be treated and conception can be possible for you.