Male Infertility Overview

Male infertility overview

  • Male infertility is a man’s inability to produce any sperm or to produce sperm that is of adequate quality to fertilize a female egg.
  • Male infertility is a factor in 40 percent of infertility cases, and male factor infertility is the sole cause 15 percent of the time.
  • Nearly half of all male factor infertility cases can be successfully treated or reversed.
  • Fertility treatments for male infertility include lifestyle changes, hormone therapy, surgical techniques to retrieve sperm, and in vitro fertilization (IVF).

What is male infertility?

Male infertility is the inability to produce sperm or to produce healthy sperm that can fertilize the female egg. Infertility is the inability of couples to get pregnant after one year of non-contraceptive, regular sexual intercourse. For 40 percent of infertile couples, male infertility is a contributing factor.

Testing for male infertility is completed during the early stages of fertility treatment at the same time as testing of the female partner.

What are the causes of male infertility?

Following are the primary causes of male-related infertility.

  • Abnormal bulging veins in the testicles, known as varicoceles, are the most common cause of male infertility, and can result in low sperm production and poor sperm quality.
  • The shape and size of sperm, known as sperm morphology, affect the sperm’s ability to fertilize the egg.
  • Chromosomal or genetic issues that affect sperm production may result in low sperm count and concentration in semen.
  • Low sperm motility (movement) also makes it difficult for sperm to travel to and penetrate a woman’s egg.
  • An imbalance in testosterone or other hormones.
  • A natural physical blockage – or surgical vasectomy – in male tubes (vas deferens) that carry sperm from the testicles to mix with semen before ejaculation.
  • Retrograde ejaculation, a disorder that prohibits semen from properly ejaculating outwardly, does not allow sperm to leave the man’s body.
  • Emotional and psychological conditions or spinal cord injuries may result in impotence and cause infertility in men.
  • Cancer treatment can cause male infertility (men preparing to undergo radiation or chemotherapy are strongly advised to consult a reproductive endocrinologist or oncologist regarding sperm freezing).

What are the symptoms of male infertility?

Impotence, which is the inability to have and keep an erect penis during sex, is one physical sign of male infertility. Retrograde ejaculation, which results in a “dry orgasm,” as the semen is not ejaculated out of the body but into the male’s bladder, is another symptom of male fertility problems.

Genetic and chromosomal disorders and problems with sperm production and delivery present no symptoms.

Testing for male infertility

Tests for male infertility are conducted in our office and may involve:

  • General physical exam and medical history to gain a better understanding of a patient’s overall health
  • Semen testing provides information pertaining to the number of sperm that have sound structure and shape (morphology), the quantity of production, sperm motility (movement), and sperm quality
  • Hormone levels and antibodies can indicate that sperm production is functioning at normal levels and confirm that antibodies are not killing sperm
  • Genetic tests to confirm or rule out possible chromosomal issues
  • Ultrasounds to assess abnormalities of the internal reproductive organs
  • Biopsies to evaluate the presence of infection or malignancies
  • Specialized sperm tests to determine how well the sperm function and survive following ejaculation, and to determine if sperm are intact and moving the way they should.

Learn more about male infertility tests & diagnosis

What are the treatments for male infertility?

Treatments for male-related infertility include:

  • Holistic fertility and lifestyle changes can alter such negative health habits as obesity, unhealthy diet and smoking, all of which affect fertility
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI) involves the collection, washing (cleaning) and concentration of healthy sperm that are then placed directly into the uterus
  • IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is an advanced laboratory procedure that involves the injection of a single healthy sperm into an egg to create an embryo, which is implanted into a woman’s uterus
  • Sperm retrieval for men who cannot ejaculate or produce semen involves retrieval of semen from the testicles using a small needle
  • Vasectomy reversal enables a man to once again produce healthy sperm in his semen
  • Sperm donation is the use of another male’s sperm to fertilize a woman’s egg
  • Hormone therapy and medications may be recommended to alter high or low hormone levels that affect fertility.

Learn more about basic fertility treatments