Read on to find out if you have male infertility—and what you can do about it.
What is male infertility?
Male infertility means you can’t get your partner pregnant. It often results from low production of sperm, called oligospermia, or from complete absence of sperm in your ejaculate, called azoospermia.
Sperm that doesn’t move correctly, or is shaped abnormally, can also have problems reaching an egg to fertilize. Obstructions preventing the sperm from leaving the body can be to blame, too.
What causes male infertility?
Hormonal imbalance may be to blame. You need adequate levels of testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and prolactin to produce healthy sperm, so low levels could cause a problem.
Certain health conditions can play a role, too. Diabetes, for instance, damages the nerves that move the sperm out of the penis, Dr. Paduch says.
Metabolic syndrome—a combination of factors including abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol—sparks inflammation throughout your body, which can damage your sperm.
Steroids raise your risk, too. Anabolic steroids raise testosterone levels so much that it may suppress the production of FSH and LH, which hinders the creation of healthy sperm, says Dr. Paduch.
When should I see my doctor?
If you’ve been having sex unprotected for 12 months and she’s still not pregnant, it’s a good idea for you both to get checked, Dr. Paduch says.
Make an appointment with a urologist for your checkup.
What can I expect at an infertility appointment?
Your doctor will perform a thorough physical exam, where he or she will check for any below-the-belt abnormalities.
These include lumps, scarring, curvature of the penis, or enlarged veins called varicoceles, which may be obstructing your sperm’s pathway out of your body.
You’ll be asked to provide a sample of your sperm right away. That’s because issues with sperm quality or quantity can quickly point to why you are having trouble getting your partner pregnant.
Ideally, you’ll make the deposit at the facility, since semen motility, or how well they move, is most accurately evaluated within 30 minutes of ejaculating, Dr. Paduch says.
You’ll likely also receive a blood test, where your doctor will check hormone levels and blood sugar levels.
What are treatment options for male infertility?
Having male infertility doesn’t mean your partner will have to hit up a sperm bank to conceive. There are many options available that can increase your chances of making a baby, Dr. Paduch says.
Your doc may prescribe certain hormonal treatments, like Clomid and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), to increase low levels of LH and FSH. That’ll boost your levels of testosterone, which will stimulate normal sperm production.
Diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes? Getting your blood sugar under control with diet, exercise, and medication, if needed, can boost fertility, Dr. Paduch says. That’s because stabilizing your blood sugar prevents further nerve damage and regulates your hormone levels.
If you’re overweight—especially with other characteristics of metabolic syndrome—you should look to your lifestyle for some Easy Ways to Boost Your Sperm. That means losing weight, exercising more, and quitting smoking, he says.
Obstructions like varicoceles should removed or repaired surgically—it’s a simple outpatient procedure that boosts your odds of a baby. A surgeon will seal off the problem-causing vein so the blood flow will redirect to your healthy veins.
In fact, men who had theirs repaired produced more and higher-quality sperm afterwards, and were three times more likely to successfully impregnate their partner than those who didn’t go under the knife, a study in the journal European Andrology found.
What if those male infertility treatments don’t work?
Your doctor may recommend assisted reproductive technology (ART) options, which can give your sperm a more direct entrance into an egg.
ART treatments include intrauterine insemination (IUI), in which sperm are directly injected into the uterus during ovulation; in-vitro fertilization (IVF), where sperm fertilize an egg in a lab and the fertilized egg is placed in the uterus; or intracytoplasmic sperm injections (ICSI) where a sperm is injected into an egg that’s then implanted in the uterus.
Source: Men’s Health