Many Reasons – And Fixes – For Male Infertility


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If you’re trying to conceive and it just isn’t happening after a full year, you’re officially considered infertile . According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

  • One-third of these cases is due to male infertility issues
  • One-third is due to female infertility
  • One-third is either due to both, or the cause is unknown

For men, there typically aren’t any symptoms that you’re infertile other than the obvious – you can’t conceive. But one or more of the following could be your first clue:

  • Difficulty ejaculating or maintaining an erection
  • Reduced desire for sex
  • Abnormal growth of breast
  • Testicle pain or a lump
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lost or reduced sense of smell

A Sperm’s Journey

Here’s what needs to happen with sperm in order to conceive:

It’s a complicated process with plenty of room for things to go awry. But there also is plenty of opportunity to boost your chances.

Lifestyle Changes That Improve Fertility

Sometimes boosting fertility can be a simple fix, says Aaron Block, MD, MPH, CPH, with Franklin Family Practice. “Avoid super hot showers and hot tubs. Restrict how much time you spend on a bike. Wear loose underwear. Remove anything that can create heat in the groin, like a laptop computer or even a cell phone in your front pocket.”

Other lifestyle changes that can boost fertility include:

  • Quit smoking. Men who smoke or inhale secondary smoke can have a lower sperm count.
  • Drink less alcohol. It can affect sperm count, lower testosterone levels, and cause erectile dysfunction.
  • Avoid steroids and drugs. Anabolic steroids can cause the testicles to shrink and decrease sperm production. Cocaine and marijuana also can reduce the quantity and quality of sperm.
  • Lose weight if necessary. Obesity has a negative effect on fertility.
  • Treat depression and emotional stress. Both can have a negative effect on fertility.
  1. One of your testicles must be functioning properly, and your body must be producing the proper hormones to create healthy sperm.
  2. You must create enough sperm, since not all will reach their intended destination.
  3. Your sperm must mix with semen and move to the penis.
  4. You must successfully ejaculate the sperm.

Medical Reasons For Infertility

These medical conditions also have a negative effect on fertility:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Hormone imbalance, low testosterone, and dysfunctional pituitary glands are conditions that often can be treated with medication
  • Complete lack of sperm (the cause of infertility in about 15 percent of men). “For some men, it’s due to a physical barrier or blockage,” says Dr. Block. “It’s not always that sperm aren’t being produced. Instead it can mean that something is preventing sperm from travelling to the penis for ejaculation.” In these instances, your sperm can sometimes be extracted from the testicle to fertilize a woman’s egg, Dr. Block explains.
  • Enlarged veins in the scrotum. “One common reason for low sperm production,” says Dr. Block, “is enlarged veins in the scrotum that bring too much heat to the testicles and alter sperm quality and production.” According to the NIH, the condition, called varicoceles, is often reversible. It’s present in about 40 percent of men with fertility problems.

While some of the medical reasons for male infertility are reversible, some are not, says Dr. Block. These may include:

  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Trauma to the testicles
  • History of chemotherapy or radiation

Don’t Be Embarrassed To Talk To Your Doctor

While discussing infertility can be difficult, especially for men, Dr. Block urges men to be up front with their health care provider. “We’re not machines built in a lab to perfection,” he says, “so we all have our quirks, and not everybody’s body works 100 percent in all areas. Once we know, we can work together to improve a couples’ chances of conceiving.”

To learn more about male infertility, talk to your doctor or health care provider or search for a provider.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.