Male infertility is not as uncommon as you might think. In fact, when having difficulty conceiving, couples often assume it is due to a problem with the woman and are shocked to find out that male infertility is quite common. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a child after one year of engaging in unprotected intercourse. According to RMA (Reproductive Medicine Associates of Pennsylvania) infertility equally affects men and women. In couples that are experiencing infertility, it is due to approximately 35% male factors, 35% female factors, with 20% of cases being a combination of both male and female factors, and 10% due to unexplained causes.
What Exactly is Male Infertility?
Male infertility is a health issue that lowers or inhibits a male to cause pregnancy in a fertile female. Under normal circumstances, the male reproductive system creates, stores and transports sperm. Male fertility depends on the body making normal sperm and delivering them; however, the system only works correctly when genes, hormone levels and environmental conditions are right. When a male's reproductive system is not working properly, it causes male infertility. And it is not uncommon. Nearly 17% of all couples in the United States experience problems with infertility and of those cases, 30% are caused by infertility in the male. If trying for a second child, male infertility is the primary medical issue in 30-50% of couples trying to conceive..
What are the Causes of Male Infertility?
Male infertility occurs when the male reproductive system is not working properly and is unable to make and grow sperm correctly. In these cases, sperm may not fully grow, be deformed, not move correctly, be produced in low numbers or not be produced at all.
Problems with sperm production can be something you're born with. It can also be caused by lifestyle choices. Factors such as drinking alcohol, smoking or taking certain prescribed medications (mainly arthritis, depression, high blood pressure, cancer, digestive and infection medications) can all contribute to low sperm counts. Health history is also a contributing factor with long term illnesses, childhood infections and chromosome or hormone problems leading to issues with sperm production and male infertility. Any damage to the reproductive system, obstructions and birth defects can also cause low or no sperm. Other causes of male can infertility include:
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Retrograde ejaculation
- Sexual problems such as ED or Premature Ejaculation
- Excessive exercise
- Exposure to toxins and environmental hazards
What are the Symptoms of Male Infertility?
The main symptom of infertility in males is the inability to conceive a child after one year of engaging in unprotected intercourse. This may be the only obvious sign, but there are other symptoms that are associated with male infertility. According to the Mayo Clinic, these signs and symptoms include:
- Problems with sexual function — e.g., difficulty ejaculating, small amount of fluid ejaculated, reduced sexual desire, or difficulty maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)
- Pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area
- Recurrent respiratory infections
- Inability to smell
- Abnormal breast growth (gynecomastia)
- Decreased facial or body hair or other signs of a chromosomal or hormonal abnormality
- A lower than normal sperm count (fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen or a total sperm count of less than 39 million per ejaculate)
What Treatments are Available for Male Infertility?
Depending on the cause of your infertility there are many different forms of treatment that could be needed. Sometimes your doctor may recommend a behavioral or lifestyle change and other times drug therapy is the answer. Although, if a mechanical repair is needed or if there's an obstruction, then surgery might be your best option.
- Behavior and Lifestyle Changes: Stop smoking, lose weight, reduce alcohol consumption and increase/decrease exercise. These, among others, are things your doctor may recommend as a lifestyle change to help increase sperm counts.
- Infection Treatments: If there is an infection in the reproductive tract, antibiotics will cure the infection, but this doesn't always restore fertility.
- Sexual Dysfunction Treatment: Problems such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation are also contributing factors in male infertility. Treating these conditions with medication and counseling can help improve fertility.
- Hormonal Treatments and Medications: Hormone replacement therapy or medications may be recommended if it is found that infertility is being caused by hormone imbalances (high or low) or with how the body is using the hormones.
- Surgery: If infertility is found to be caused by obstructed vas deferens or a varicocele, these can both be repaired/corrected with surgery. If it is found during diagnosis there is no sperm present at all in the ejaculate, sperm-retrieval techniques can be performed to retrieve sperm directly from the testicles or epididymis.
About Philadelphia Urology Associates
At Philadelphia Urology Associates, Dr. Bruce Sloane is a nationally renowned specialist in Men's Health issues and Age Management Medicine. Throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, patients seek his expertise to treat male infertility and other urological issues such as premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. Using state-of-the-art equipment and having extensive specialized education and training, Dr. Sloane will find the treatments and solutions that will work for you.