Get the facts, before you get the treatment.
Male infertility is something that seems to be rarely talked about, but something that needs to be addressed. It’s just as common and as important to the health of your family as feminine infertility, however, tackling the issue can sometimes seem impossible.
Finding out that you may struggle personally with male infertility can feel like an emasculating experience, but remember that you’re not alone. Most problems with fertility in men are far outside of personal control, so it’s important to keep in mind that while preventative measures do exist, often there is nothing you have done to cause the issue directly. Learn what can actually cause male infertility and what you can do about it. Empowering you to make better choices, sooner.
What is Male Infertility?
Male infertility is a specific type of infertility that only- obviously, affects males. While this seems pretty straight forward, male infertility affects an estimated 7% of men and accounts for 40-50% of all infertility issues. Male infertility can happen to anyone, and it occurs for a number of reasons. Understanding that most times, it’s more biological than it is environmental, can help to remove some of the onus from the individual.
What Causes Male Infertility?
In male infertility, problems generally arise secondary to issues within the semen itself. Poor sperm quality or motility are perhaps the most common causes of fertility in men, but there are also many other factors to be considered.
Congenital and Genetic Defects
- Some men create what are called “antiserum antibodies” which is a sort of autoimmune disorder where your body doesn’t readily recognize your sperm as “self”. This can cause your antibodies to attract sperm and degrade its overall quality.
Y Chromosome Infertility
- During pubescent development, as your body begins to produce gamete chromosomes. Essentially the XY info your sperm hold. In Y chromosome infertility, the Y of the XY is deleted and it can cause lower sperm counts or misshapen sperm.
- USP26 is a specific type of enzyme that is an X-linked gene. Meaning it attaches to the X of the XY genes expressed in males. This enzyme plays a special role in sperm production and the way the body uses protein to create that sperm. Issues with the USP26 can cause a decrease in sperm count or the complete absence of sperm within your ejaculate.
- The acrosome is a part of the sperm cell that helps aid the little guy in penetrating the outer layer of the female egg, resulting in fertilization. Defects to this structure can make it difficult, if not downright impossible to get the sperm cells into the egg.
- This specific type of chromosomal abnormality can result in chromosomes becoming attached to one another and result in a lower number of chromosomes available.
- Celiac Disease
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Riding bikes, horses, motorcycles, jet ski’s… pretty much anything that can be ridden that causes undue friction, vibration, or pressure on the testes has been correlated with lower sperm production.
- Any direct trauma to the penis or testes can cause fertility issues. It’s always wise to wear protective gear anytime you plan on participating in extreme sports.
- Studies have shown that exercising in excess can actually serve to lower testosterone levels and inhibit proper sperm production. It’s also important to note that the use of steroids can not only compound this issue but also cause testicular shrinkage.
- While actually a chromosomal defect, Klinefelter Syndrome doesn’t result directly in poor sperm production, but rather indirectly by causing smaller testes and a reduction in testosterone production.
- As men age, so does the genetic quality of their sperm.
- The absence of one, or both, testes. This can be due to illness, injury, or birth defect.
- The accumulation of fluid around a testicle.
- An unidentifiable cause of low sperm production.
- Swollen Testicles. A number of things can result in varicocele, but it is found to be present in a large percentage of both primary and secondary infertilities.
- DNA damage that is resultant from anything, from trauma to illness, to environmental factors can result in impaired fertility.
Vas Deferens Obstruction
- Retrograde ejaculation occurs when ejaculate is improperly directed into the bladder instead of the urethra.
Ejaculatory Duct Obstruction
- A type of congenital disorder in which the urethra isn’t situated at the tip of the penis, but rather on the shaft, or in extreme cases, near or in the scrotum itself.
- Hot showers, hot tubs, saunas, and high temperatures have been closely correlated with lower sperm counts.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Chemotherapy, steroids, cimetidine, spironolactone, phenytoin, and some antibiotics can all cause a reduction in sperm production. Make sure to discuss any medication concerns or changes with your doctor before taking action.
- Having sex is important, but having sex daily can serve to lower viable sperm counts. Generally, every two to three days is recommended.
- Pesticides, radiation, lead, heavy metals, and other common chemicals that some men see daily in their jobs can be attributed to fertility issues.
Male Infertility: What Can Be Done?
While preventative measures can be taken, the best way to address concerns regarding infertility is to talk to your doctor. You may be directed to a specialist, such as a urologist or an andrologist, or fertility clinic. Once testing and diagnosis are underway, take time to consider your general health and ways to improve its overall quality. Eat healthily, stay hydrated, and exercise.
Following a diagnosis, you and your partner may need to consider alternative measures such as a lifestyle change, hormone therapy, surgical intervention or specific fertility treatments. Things like Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and Invitro fertilization (IVF) can be very promising treatments for some couples. If all else fails, there are always considerations like surrogacy or adoption. There is always hope for creating the family that you have dreamed of.
Seeking Support for Male Infertility
For more information on types of fertility issues, treatment, and news, stop by Ilaya’s blog for continually updated content on these issues and many, many more. Forums and support groups are exceptionally beneficial for many people and can be found all over the internet or may be suggested by your fertility clinic expert. Therefore, don’t be afraid to reach out. There are thousands of people who can understand where you’re coming from and offer guidance and encouragement through this less than ideal time