In the U.S., approximately 12-13 out of 100 couples will have difficulty with pregnancy. Clinically, the inability to get pregnant is defined as cases where men and women cannot achieve pregnancy after one year of having unprotected sex. Of these cases, one third are due to male infertility.
Infertility in men can occur for both physical and psychological reasons and is an important issue in men’s health that we need to talk about. Infertility issues that are related to lifestyle can be prevented, and raising awareness may help to lower the numbers of men who experience difficulty.
Causes of Male Infertility
According to the Urology Care Foundation, problems with infertility in men can be comprised of several components. Most commonly, there is a complication with the production or delivery of sperm.
Issues related to sperm include irregularities in shape, inability to grow to the fullest extent, trouble moving, low production count, or azoospermia, the absence of sperm altogether.
Issues with sperm can be due to:
- Genetic predisposition
- Drinking and smoking
- Certain medications (for arthritis, cancer, depression, digestive issues, infection, high blood pressure)
- Long term illness
- Childhood infections
- Hormonal and chromosomal problems
- Damage to the reproductive organs
Other issues that can cause infertility in men:
- Varicoceles, or swollen veins in the scrotum
- Surgery or other trauma to the area that can cause a blockage
Diagnosing infertility in men begins with an examination of personal and familial history. A healthcare provider will survey the lifestyle of the patient as well as any information that can indicate possible risk or cause.
A physical exam is then conducted where the penis, vas deferens and epididymis ducts, and testicles are assessed. Each is integral for the passage of and production of semen.
Other ways to diagnose infertility are through semen analysis, transrectal ultrasound, a biopsy of the testicles, and examination of hormones.
Male Infertility Treatment Options
Treatment for male infertility consists of both surgical and nonsurgical methods. If sperm complications are the cause, assisted reproductive techniques are recommended. Medication to regulate hormones is also available.
Surgical procedures may help to improve blockage and are performed in a variety of ways. The success rate for treating infertility in men is approximately 60 percent. The biggest challenge is in narrowing down the cause to choose an appropriate method of treatment.
If you or someone you know ifs suffering from infertility, talk to your doctor about options for treatment. Know that most cases can be resolved, and certain lifestyle choices can enable the best chances of avoiding infertility as a man.