Male Infertility

Back to Glossary

Male Infertility

What is Male Infertility?

Male infertility refers to a male's inability to cause pregnancy in a fertile female. It is a complex issue that affects approximately one in six couples, with studies indicating that male-factor infertility is the primary cause in about 20% of cases and a contributing factor in another 30-40% of cases.

What Are The 9 Most Common Causes of Male Infertility?

Male infertility is most commonly caused by problems that affect either sperm production or sperm transport. Through medical testing, the doctor may be able to find the cause of the problem. Let's explore the most common causes.

  • Varicocele
    A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins within the scrotum, similar to varicose veins in the legs, which can impair sperm production by affecting the temperature regulation of the testes.
  • Sperm Production Issues
    Issues with sperm production, such as low sperm count or poor sperm quality, are significant contributors. It encompasses conditions where sperm is produced in insufficient numbers or where the sperm produced is not functional.
  • Sperm Transport Problems
    Difficulties with sperm transport, including blockages in the vas deferens, can prevent sperm from being delivered effectively. This category also covers men who have undergone vasectomy and seek reversal for fertility.
  • Infections
    Infections can impact male fertility by causing scarring that obstructs the passage of sperm. Some diseases can also directly affect sperm health and production.
  • Hormone Imbalances
    Disruptions in hormonal levels can affect the male reproductive system, decreasing sperm production. Conditions affecting the pituitary gland, thyroid, or adrenal glands can contribute to such imbalances.
  • Lifestyle Factors
    Lifestyle choices, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and illicit drug use, can negatively impact sperm count and quality. Obesity and stress are also known to affect fertility.
  • Environmental Exposures
    Exposure to certain environmental factors, like toxins, pesticides, and heavy metals, can reduce sperm quality and quantity. Even activities like prolonged bicycling that increase scrotal temperature can have detrimental effects.
  • Genetic Conditions
    Certain genetic conditions can cause male infertility by affecting sperm production or by causing physical abnormalities in the reproductive system, such as cystic fibrosis affecting the vas deferens.
  • Erectile Dysfunction
    Issues with achieving or maintaining an erection can impair a man's ability to engage in sexual intercourse, thus affecting fertility.

How Is Male Infertility Diagnosed?

Diagnosing male infertility involves a thorough medical history and physical examination, as well as a variety of tests to detect any underlying conditions or issues. The initial assessment usually includes a semen analysis, which measures the quantity and quality of the sperm in the semen.

Other tests may include a hormone evaluation, genetic testing, testicular biopsy, or imaging studies to look for structural abnormalities. In some cases, a specialist in male fertility may be needed to perform more advanced tests and treatments.

Semen Analysis

Semen analysis is the most common test to assess male fertility. It measures several parameters, including the number of sperm (concentration), the shape of the sperm (morphology), and the movement of the sperm (motility). Other factors, such as the volume of the sample, the colour, and the presence of any other cells or particles, are also noted.

An average sperm concentration is over or equal to 20 million sperm per millilitre of semen. A count below 10 million is considered poor, while a count of zero is known as azoospermia.

Hormone Evaluation

Hormone evaluation is another important aspect of diagnosing male infertility. Hormones play a vital role in the production of sperm. A simple blood test can measure the level of testosterone and other hormones to determine if there is a hormonal imbalance contributing to infertility.

Low levels of hormones, especially testosterone, can interfere with sperm production. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy may be suggested as a treatment option.

What Are The Main Treatments For Male Infertility?

Addressing male infertility involves a spectrum of treatments tailored to the underlying cause. From lifestyle adjustments to advanced medical interventions, here's a look at the most prevalent treatment options.

  • Lifestyle Changes
    Making lifestyle adjustments is often the first step in treating male infertility. This includes quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, exercising regularly, and managing stress. These changes can significantly improve sperm quality and fertility.
  • Hormone Therapy
    For men with hormonal imbalances affecting fertility, hormone therapy can be an effective treatment. This may involve taking medications to correct hormonal deficiencies, potentially improving sperm production and quality.
  • Surgical Interventions
    Surgical options are available for structural problems, such as varicoceles or blockages in the sperm transport pathways. Procedures like varicocelectomy or vasectomy reversal can address these issues and improve the chances of conception.
  • Medications
    Antibiotics may be prescribed to clear up infections affecting sperm health. At the same time, other medications can stimulate sperm production or address erectile dysfunction. These treatments aim to enhance fertility through pharmacological means.
  • Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
    ART encompasses techniques like in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where sperm is directly injected into an egg. ART can be a valuable option for couples facing severe infertility issues.
  • Sperm Retrieval Techniques
    For cases where sperm are not present in the ejaculate, procedures such as Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE) or Microsurgical Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (MESA) can retrieve sperm directly from the testicles or epididymis for use in ART.
  • Genetic Counselling
    When infertility is due to genetic conditions, genetic counselling can provide insights into reproductive options and risks, guiding couples on their journey to parenthood.

Can Male Infertility Be Prevented?

While completely preventing male infertility isn't always possible, specific measures can significantly reduce risk factors.

Adopting healthier habits and avoiding detrimental exposures are imperative in safeguarding reproductive health. Early intervention for any reproductive concerns can also enhance the likelihood of successful outcomes.

  • Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle: Emphasising balanced nutrition, consistent exercise, and a healthy weight is crucial. Avoiding tobacco, excessive alcohol, and illicit drugs can protect sperm health.
  • Exercise Regularly: Boosts overall well-being and testosterone levels, potentially enhancing sperm production.
  • Incorporate Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can improve sperm quality.
  • Minimise Exposure to Environmental Toxins: Pesticides, heavy metals, radiation, and certain chemicals can impair sperm function. Limiting exposure is advisable.
  • Protect Yourself at Work: For those in environments with hazardous substances, using protective measures is essential to fertility health.
  • Seek Early Medical Guidance: Consulting a healthcare provider early for fertility concerns can identify and address issues promptly, improving the chances of conception.

Seeking Appropriate Care 

Male infertility is a complex issue that a variety of factors can cause. Understanding these causes, as well as the diagnostic tests and treatment options available, can help men and their partners make informed decisions about their reproductive health.

While not all cases of male infertility can be prevented or treated, many can. With appropriate care and treatment, many men with fertility issues can conceive.

Whole Health Focus

Comprehensive and holistic approach to care, keeping men healthy in body and mind.

Expert Guidance

Listen to our specialists discussing men's health issues in the media here.

Friendly and Affordable

Making it simple for men to stay healthy. We make visits easy and as stress free as possible.

Empowering Men.