Approximately 15 percent of all couples struggle with infertility and about one-third of those originate from problems with the male in the relationship and another one third are a combination of male and female issues according to FamilyDoctor.org. Infertility is when a couple is unable to get pregnant after having unprotected sex for one year or more; for women over 35 this would be six months.
Male infertility is most often caused by a varicocele, enlarged veins in the scrotum, which "warm up" the scrotum, decreasing sperm count. Additional reasons for infertility include:
- Low sperm count
- Undescended testicles
- Abnormally shaped or underdeveloped sperm
- Retrograde ejaculation
- Hormonal deficiencies
- Obstruction in the reproductive system
Some medications can also cause infertility as can certain illnesses. Some cases of infertility are genetic. While not the cause of infertility, some lifestyle choices may contribute to infertility, such as smoking, excessive drinking, emotional stress and obesity. Fertility in men also decreases with age, beginning around the age of 35.
If you and your partner have been trying to have a child for a year or more without success, it may be time to talk with a doctor. After you provide a medical history, your doctor will test your semen for your sperm count and quality. You may be asked to come back for a second testing of your semen. Depending on the results of these tests, your doctor may request additional medical testing, such as blood work, an transrectal ultrasound, a testicular biopsy and hormonal analysis, to try to find the underlying cause of your infertility.
FamilyDoctor.org indicates that more than one-half of all cases of male fertility are treatable. In some cases out-patient surgery may be needed. Once treatment is completed, your partner may be able to get pregnant through sexual intercourse.
Medical treatment options include:
Surgery - If varicoceles are found to be the cause of infertility, outpatient surgery to repair the veins can improve sperm counts and movement.
Medication - For some conditions, such as retrograde ejaculation and immunologic infertility, medications can help.
If, even with treatment, your partner is still unable to get pregnant, you can consider techniques that promote conception without intercourse:
Intrauterine insemination - sperm is placed directly into your partner's uterus with a catheter.
In vitro fertilization - Eggs from your partner, or a female donor, are fertilized outside the uterus and after 48 to 72 hours, the fertilized egg is placed in your partner's uterus.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection - injection of a single sperm into your partner's, or a female donor's, egg. Once the egg is fertilized, like in vitro fertilization, it is placed in your partner's uterus
Your doctor will discuss the different options available and help you and your partner decide which technique is best for your situation.
In addition to medical interventions, there are some lifestyle changes that may help to improve your chances of having your partner get pregnant:
Monitoring ovulation and increasing sexual activity around the time of ovulation. Because sperm can live up to 2 days in a women's uterus, having sex at least once per day shortly before and after ovulation can help increase the chances of getting pregnant.
Eat healthy. While there is no conclusive evidence that diet plays a role in infertility however, obesity may be a factor and eating right can help you manage your weight.
Exercise. Adding exercise to your daily routine helps to manage weight and reduce stress, which can contribute to infertility.
Avoid hot baths, showers and steam rooms. Overheating the testes can reduce sperm count. While trying to have a baby, it is best to take warm showers or baths and stay out of steam rooms and hot tubs.
Quit smoking or discontinue using recreational drugs. Smoking cigarettes or using drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, can contribute to infertility.
Dealing with infertility is stressful, on you and your partner, and the added stress can interfere with sperm production. Keep open communication with your partner and talk about what types of treatments you feel comfortable with and whether you want to consider alternatives such as adoption, donor sperm or egg or not having children. Talking about the issues you are facing can help you and your partner better cope with infertility.
For information on female infertility:
"Infertility in Men - Lifestyle Changes," reviewed 2008, Oct 21, Harvey Simon, M.D., University of Maryland Medical Center
"Male Infertility," Updated 2010, February, Staff Writer, FamilyDoctor.org
"Male Infertility," 2011, January, Staff Writer, AUA Foundation, Americ
Published On: January 30, 2012