Couples are considered infertile after they have tried for one year or more to get pregnant without success. Many couples automatically assume that the problem is a female issue, but up to forty percent of fertility issues are male-related problems. It is important that both couples have testing to identify what factors are contributing or causing infertility. In men, there are many different causes of infertility, including trauma or sports related injuries, hormonal disorders, illness, medications, or anatomical problems.
Causes of Male Infertility
Varicocele: Varicocele is a condition that affects approximately 40 percent of infertile males. It is caused by enlargement of the veins in the scrotum. If these veins are enlarged it can cause the temperature to increase. Increased temperature of the scrotum affects sperm production and sperm quality.
Cryptorchidism: If the testes do not properly descend into the scrotom this is called cryptorchidsm. Cryptorchidism is fairly common in premature births and occurs in full term births at a much lesser rate. Usually this resolves itself within a few weeks, but sometimes corrective surgery is needed. Cryptorchism can seriously impair fertility rates. If both testes are affected the chance of a successful pregnancy is very small.
Disease or illness: Diseases such as cystic fibrosis can affect male fertility. Men who have undergone chemotherapy or had sexually transmitted desases may also be at greater risk of infertility.
Obstructions in the reproductive tract: Obstructions in the male reproductive system is another common cause of infertility. Men with obstruction problems are usually making sperm but it is not making its way outside of the penis. Common causes of obstructions are urinary tract infections, scarring from sexually transmitted disease, injury, vasectomy or anatomical defects.
Injury: Accidents or sports injuries can cause damage to the male reproductive system resulting in infertility.
Hormone Deficiencies: Deficiencies in male hormone production such as testosterone can affect sperm production. Doctors will usually ask questions about when puberty was started. The age at which males enter puberty can be an indicator of hormonal disorders.
Medications: There are many medications that affect fertility and cause sexual disfunctions. It is important for a doctor to evaluate what medications a man is taking to determine the possible impact on his fertility.
Retrograde Ejaculation: Retrograde ejaculation is caused when the nerves or muscles in the bladder do not work properly. What happens is sperm is transported backwards into the bladder instead of forward and out through the penis. Sometimes men will have cloudy urine after an ejaculation because of this.
If you are having infertility issues it is important that both partners are evaluated. A doctor will do a thorough physical exam as well as evaluate the man's sperm. Men may be uncomfortable going in for an exam but it is really necessary that both partner's be evaluated during a fertility work up. Treatment options will vary depending on what the cause of his infertility is.