Male Fertility: Everything You Need To Know
You have been trying for months, and each month you have the same disappointment.
Your wife thinks its her fault. Shes beginning to get very depressed. She’s been doing all her expensive fertility tests desperately trying to find an answer. She’s even considering IVF. There goes your new home deposit.
Secretly, you suspect you are the one with male fertility issues, not her.
Stressing. Smoking. Sitting.
You have not been kind to your swimmers.
But what can you do to help them get to the finish line?
Male fertility is centred around the man’s ability to produce a sufficient number of quality sperm. Quality sperm may fertilise the woman’s egg and form a healthy offspring.
Several factors affect male fertility, both positively and negatively. Read on to find out what could affect your fertility and what you can do to improve it.
So, what exactly is male fertility?
Generally, fertility is defined as a couple’s ability to conceive after one year of engaging in intercourse without applying any contraceptive measures1.
Drawing from that, male fertility, in simple terms, is a man’s ability to make a fertile woman pregnant. If the woman’s sexual reproductive system is in good shape, a fertile man needn’t have too many problems getting her pregnant.
The quality of the semen and sperm within it are the main components of male fertility. If this semen and sperm are normal and able to fertilize an egg, the man is said to be fertile.
How does a fertile man’s reproductive system work?
In a man, the reproductive process begins in the gonads – the testicles. Within these gonads, sperm cells are formed through a process known as spermatogenesis2.
During puberty, when the testes begin producing the hormone testosterone, the cells in the testes morph into sperm cells. They are then stored in the epididymis so that they can mature further3, readying them for the journey towards the egg in the woman’s body.
This maturation process takes about 65 days.
Once you become sexually active, the sperm cells travel from the vasa deferentia in the testicles towards the urethra, mixing with seminal fluid to form semen.
This semen is released into the vaginal canal when you ejaculate, sending the sperm on their way to fertilizing the woman’s egg.
However, sometimes, it doesn’t always go to plan. This process can be hampered by various things, leading to male factor infertility.
What is male infertility?
Male infertility is the inability of a couple to get pregnant due to problems with the man’s reproductive system.
Society unfairly associates infertility with women. However, almost half of infertility cases are because of problems with the man’s reproductive system. Sometimes a couple experiences infertility because of factors arising from both parties.
Nevertheless, men significantly contribute to a couple’s infertility.
How common are fertility issues in men?
Generally, infertility affects about 15 percent of couples. However, men contribute to about 40 to 50 percent of reported cases of infertility. The cases that they are solely responsible for amount to 20 to 30 percent4.
These numbers vary in the different regions across the globe. Men don’t want to subject themselves to the social scrutiny that comes with admitting that they are infertile. This is especially more so in the developing world where masculinity is a major part of the culture4.
According to the World Health Organization, infertility prevalence rates range from 3.9 percent to 16.8 percent. Males contribute to 40 percent of these cases5.
The sperm count of the normal man is also decreasing. It used to be 60 million sperm per milliliter of semen but it dropped to 20 million per milliliter in 3 decades.
A study that took into consideration various global reports found that in Australia alone, 8 to 9 percent of men are reported infertile4. Furthermore, 40 percent of infertility factors affecting a couple originate from the man.
In North America, 4.5 to 6 percent of the men are infertile. They contribute to 50 percent of any multifactorial infertility that a couple faces.
Across the pond in Europe, 7.5 percent of the men are reported infertile. Similar to America, they contributed to 50 percent of couples in which male factor contributed to the couple’s troubles.
What are the causes?
The causes of male infertility can be grouped into two classes:
- Conditions that interfere with spermatogenesis
- Conditions that interfere with the transport of the sperms
Let’s look at these classes in more detail.
Conditions affecting spermatogenesis
Sometimes infertility in men is caused by conditions that interfere with the process of making the sperm cells. Some men suffer from azoospermia – a condition where they don’t produce sperms. About 10 to 20 percent of men who go for treatment for infertility suffer from this condition6
Problems that affect the formation of functional sperm cells include:
- genetic problems like chromosome defects
- trauma to the testicle
- infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea and mumps
- varicocele which is swelling of the blood vessels within the testicles
- problems with the thyroid gland
- insensitivity to the male sex hormone testosterone
- cryptorchidism which is a condition where the testes don’t descend to hang outside the body cavity
- low levels of hormones from the pituitary gland
Not only can some of these factors lead to azoospermia but they can also cause the formation of malformed sperm cells.
Age also has something to do with male infertility. As you grow older, the quality of your sperm decreases, making you less likely to father children as you approach the twilight of your years.
Conditions affecting sperm transportation
Sometimes, a man can produce sperm that are physically capable of fertilizing an egg. However, these sperm need to get through the cervix, up the uterus and into the fallopian tube. There are male factors that impede this journey.
- low sperm motility causing them to die before reaching the egg
- thick seminal fluid that impedes the forward progress of the sperm cells
- erectile dysfunction
- premature ejaculation
- cystic fibrosis which affects the formation of vasa deferentia and other tubes
- surgical procedures gone wrong that sever tubes for transporting sperms
- retrograde ejaculation, a condition where you ejaculate into the bladder instead of out of the penis
If you are experiencing Erectile Dysfunction or Premature Ejaculation the good news is the UK Men’s Health Clinic are highly experienced in the treatment of these causes of infertility. Get in touch with us now.
How is male infertility diagnosed?
It can be quite hard to diagnose male infertility. When it comes to diagnosis, doctors mainly look at semen quality. The sperm cells have to be functional if they are to traverse the long journey out of the man’s urethra to the woman’s fallopian tube.
However, sometimes a man with normal semen quality will have problems getting a woman pregnant. Conversely, one with abnormal semen quality might impregnate a woman7.
Nevertheless, doctors will follow steps to find the cause of your infertility. These steps include:
- General checkup and physical examination to see if anything is wrong
- Analysis of your semen sample. This includes determining the volume of the semen, concentration of sperms in the ejaculate, motility of the sperm cells and morphological appearance of the sperm cells
- Ultrasound. This can be scrotal to check for varicoceles and other problems in your testicles. It can also be rectal ultrasound to check the prostate and the associated tubes for blockages.
- Analysis of your urine after ejaculation. This tells the doctor if you’re suffering from retrograde ejaculation.
- Blood tests to check for hormone levels
- Genetic tests to look for any abnormalities in your chromosomal makeup.
What can you do about it?
With the increasing male infertility rate across developing nations, you must get checked. If you find your fertility is dropping, we are here to help.
There are several ways you can use to improve your fertility. They range from exercise to maintaining a healthy diet and using beneficial drugs.
You can improve your fertility by:
There are some male fertility products on the market that improve the quality of your sperm so that you can get your partner pregnant.
The medication contains a natural mineral that is vital in the proper functioning of cellular metabolism. Consequently, it improves sperm cell morphology as well as motility – improving the quality of your sperm.
The fertility products also contain natural hormones that set off a cascade that results in the production of testosterone; the male sex hormone. Increased testosterone improves your fertility.
Sometimes your infertility is because your sperm cannot swim past the cervical mucus plug. There are prescription medications that are used to thin this mucus so that the sperm can navigate through the cervix and into the uterus.
Managing the temperature of your testicles
You can improve your fertility by wearing loose-fitting pants. This is especially good for your sperm because they need a cooler temperature to survive. Just an increase of one degree Celsius in the testicles slows down the sperm production process by at least 14 percent5.
The testicles hang outside the body cavity so that they can be at a lower temperature. Wearing tight-fitting pants increases this temperature and affects the formation and storage of sperm cells.
If you work in a setting where there is a lot of heat, you need to take regular breaks to cool down.
Eating a balanced healthy diet
To improve your fertility, you need to eat a balanced and healthy diet. This means that you should look for foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins. These are good for the health of the sperm.
Your diet should, therefore, include lots of fruits, berries, nuts and seeds. You should also take out fatty and greasy foods because they contribute to diabetes. Diabetes can affect your ability to get and maintain an erection, increasing your infertility.
You should also include some carbs as well as lean meats and fish for protein. Afterall, semen contains sugars to provide energy to the swimmers. The protein provides further nourishment.
Cutting back on alcohol intake
Drinking copious amounts of alcohol results in reduced fertility8.
This is because alcohol affects the formation of the sperm cells and distorts their morphology. Only 12 percent of the alcoholics in the study had normal sperm appearance.
In the same study mentioned above, scientists discovered that smoking contributes heavily to male infertility. The toxins from the cigarettes bring about a condition known as asthenozoospermia.
This is when the sperms lose their motility. The more one smokes, the closer one comes to achieving complete asthenozoospermia – when none of the sperm in the ejaculate is motile.
Therefore, quitting both alcohol and smoking can improve your fertility. If you have been struggling with this the Doctors and performance managers at the Men’s Health Clinic can assist you in your quest to improve your overall wellness. Speak to us today.
Recreational drugs like cocaine, opiates and amphetamines interfere with the production of sperm, potentially causing you to become infertile.
Steroids interfere with the hormonal process that creates testosterone. The result is that you’ll have less testosterone and your testes will shrink. Smaller testes produce fewer sperms.
You should, therefore, avoid all these drugs to have a fruitful reproductive life.
Having an active lifestyle
Many people these days are cooped up in offices where they spend most of their time seated. This doesn’t give the testicles any free space that’s cooler. You should, therefore, walk around more to allow the testicles to cool off and properly make functional sperm cells.
A sedentary lifestyle also leads to men gaining weight. Massive weight gain increases the chances of having low quality sperm and having low sperm count.
You should, therefore, exercise more so that your body mass index is within the normal range.
How can Men's Health Clinic Australia help?
Male infertility is very common. It has various causes, grouped in two. Some of these factors affect the process of sperm generation whereas others affect the transport of the sperm.
Although the normal parameters vary, doctors still use semen quality to assess the fertility of a man. If the quality seems to be in order, they can order other tests to see what could be causing the problem.
Once the problem is diagnosed, there are various ways that you can deal with it. These range from lifestyle and dietary changes to using male fertility products.
Men’s Health Clinic Australia can facilitate quick and easy fertility testing and treatment for suitable patients.
- Skakkebaek, N.E., Rajpert-De Meyts, E., Buck Louis, G.M., Toppari, J., Andersson, A.M., Eisenberg, M.L., Jensen, T.K., Jørgensen, N., Swan, S.H., Sapra, K.J. and Ziebe, S., 2015. Male reproductive disorders and fertility trends: influences of environment and genetic susceptibility. Physiological reviews, 96(1), pp.55-97. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698396/?report=classic#sec3title
- Gilbert, S.F., 2000. Spermatogenesis. Developmental Biology, 6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK10095/
- Esteves, S.C. and Miyaoska, R., 2015. Sperm physiology and assessment of spermatogenesis kinetics in vivo. In Handbook of Fertility (pp. 383-396). Academic Press. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128008720000342
- Agarwal, A., Mulgund, A., Hamada, A. and Chyatte, M.R., 2015. A unique view on male infertility around the globe. Reproductive biology and endocrinology, 13(1), p.37. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4424520/
- Kumar, N. and Singh, A.K., 2015. Trends of male factor infertility, an important cause of infertility: A review of literature. Journal of human reproductive sciences, 8(4), p.191. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4691969/#sec1-3title
- Jarow, J.P., Espeland, M.A. and Lipshultz, L.I., 1989. Evaluation of the azoospermic patient. The Journal of urology, 142(1), pp.62-65. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022534717386627
- Irvine, D.S., 1998. Epidemiology and aetiology of male infertility. Human reproduction, 13(suppl_1), pp.33-44. https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/13/suppl_1/33/789055
- Gaur, D.S., Talekar, M.S. and Pathak, V.P., 2010. Alcohol intake and cigarette smoking: impact of two major lifestyle factors on male fertility. Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology, 53(1), p.35. http://www.ijpmonline.org/article.asp?issn=0377-4929;year=2010;volume=53;issue=1;spage=35;epage=40;aulast=Gaur
Erectile Dysfunction FAQ
Every man is different, infertility can be a result of numerous factors. The main symptom is the inability to conceive after 12 months of trying without contraception. If you have been trying without success, and your partner has been cleared, you should speak to a Doctor and begin the evaluation process.
It is estimated that one in seven couples in the UK experience some difficulty conceiving at some point in their reproductive life. The male factor alone is estimated to contribute to about 30% of couples unsuccessful in conceiving after 1 year.
It is advisable that a male does not abstain from ejaculation for long periods of time while trying to conceive. Generally intercourse should take place 2-4 times a week to optimise your chances of successful reproduction.
IVF and other fertility treatments are extremely expensive, invasive, time consuming and emotional. While some couples cannot avoid IVF, you should spend a year trying to conceive naturally. Adopt a healthy lifestyle and see a Doctor at the Men’s Health Clinic to discuss your options to improve your chances of fertility.
Male infertility is complex. In addition to lifestyle factors, many diseases can contribute to male infertility. These include but are not limited to; kidney disease, testicular cancer, metabolic disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, fevers and infections. If you are having trouble conceiving speak to a Doctor today.