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Male infertility is a condition of the reproductive system that prevents a couple from having children. If a couple has been trying to conceive a child for over a year without success, they are given a diagnosis of infertility. According to the American Pregnancy Association, infertility affects 1 in every 6 couples. Male infertility makes up about 30 percent of all cases.
There are many possible causes of male infertility, such as chronic health conditions, low sperm count, and poor-quality sperm cells. Any of these factors can interfere with the process of conceiving a child. Sperm must be healthy, functional, and transferred into the semen. There must also be enough sperm in the semen. If any of these conditions are not met, the result is male infertility.
One of the primary causes of male infertility is a varicocele, which means the veins that usually drain the testicle are swollen. This can reduce the quality of the sperm.
Other causes of male infertility include:
The risk of male infertility increases with stress, depression, testosterone replacement therapy, and the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
In most cases, the only sign of infertility in men is the inability to conceive. Physical symptoms of male infertility are uncommon. However, someone may show symptoms related to another condition that can cause infertility. For example, if a man has a hormone imbalance, he may experience changes in hair growth.
Some symptoms that have been associated with male infertility include:
To diagnose male infertility, a doctor will often start by reviewing your medical history, including asking questions about your current lifestyle habits. They may also suggest a physical analysis, request a blood test to review your hormone levels, and perform a semen analysis to learn more about your sperm count.
There are a number of treatments available to help reverse this condition.
Varicoceles are the most common cause of male infertility. Fortunately, they are treatable. Treatment for this condition requires surgery to either block or remove the veins. Many men see an improvement following surgery, but the procedure may not be as effective if there are multiple causes of the infertility.
If your doctor determines that an infection is at the root of your infertility, they will likely prescribe an antibiotic. For a hormone imbalance, you may be given oral hormones or hormone injections to correct it.
Other treatments your doctor may recommend to help increase sperm count include:
If the above treatments do not seem to be working, your doctor may recommend other fertility avenues to you and your partner. These are called assisted reproductive techniques, and they are relatively new methods of increasing fertility.
One of these infertility treatments is artificial insemination, where doctors collect semen, process it in a lab, and insert it directly into a woman's cervix or uterus.
Another common treatment is in vitro fertilization. In this procedure, a doctor takes eggs from a woman's body and mixes it with sperm in a lab. Then, they place the mixture of eggs and sperm into the women's uterus and fallopian tubes. Some couples also choose to use intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Instead of combining the sperm with the egg, this procedure involves injecting a single sperm straight into an egg and then placing the pair in a woman's uterus. The mixture can also be frozen and saved for a future appointment.
There are very few risks that go along with infertility treatments for men. While any surgery has the chance for error or injury, there is a low risk of bleeding and infection for men who undergo sperm extraction during ART treatment.
If you or someone you know is experiencing male infertility, here is a list of resources with more information about the condition. For any questions or concerns, make an appointment to speak with one of our specialists today.