Male infertility

Male infertility: A key player in achieving parenthood

Male infertility is often a silent struggle, but it plays a significant role in a couple’s journey towards parenthood. This section delves deeper into the various aspects of male infertility, empowering you with knowledge and resources.

Male infertility

What is Male Infertility and How Does It Work?

Unlike the common misconception, getting a woman pregnant isn’t solely dependent on her. Male infertility refers to the inability of a man to achieve pregnancy with his female partner despite regular, unprotected sexual intercourse for a year (or six months if the woman is over 35).

For successful fertilization, healthy sperm production is essential. This, in turn, relies on:

  • Healthy Reproductive Organs: The testicles need to function properly to produce sperm.
  • Hormonal Balance: Testosterone and other hormones play a crucial role in sperm production and development.

Once sperm is produced, it travels through delicate tubes called the vas deferens. Here, it mixes with seminal fluid to create semen, which is then ejaculated through the penis. The success of fertilization hinges on two key factors:

  • Quantity: A sufficient number of sperm (sperm count) is needed to increase the chances of one reaching and fertilizing the egg.
  • Motility: Sperm needs to be mobile (move properly) to swim through the female reproductive tract and reach the egg.

Any disruption in these stages can lead to male infertility.

Symptoms of Male Infertility

While some men might not experience any noticeable symptoms, others might have signs that indicate a potential problem. Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Sexual Function Issues: Low libido (sex drive), trouble ejaculating, or a reduced amount of semen ejaculated.
  • Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence): Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection.
  • Testicular Problems: Pain, swelling, or lumps in the testicles.
  • Other Health Concerns: Frequent respiratory infections, abnormal breast growth, or hormonal imbalances can sometimes be linked to infertility.

Causes of Male Infertility

There’s a range of factors that can contribute to male infertility. Here’s a breakdown of some common causes:

  • Varicocele: This is a swelling of the veins in the scrotum that can impair sperm quality and quantity.
  • Infections: Infections in the reproductive tract, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia and gonorrhoea, can damage sperm production or block sperm passage.
  • Ejaculation Problems: Conditions like retrograde ejaculation (semen enters the bladder instead of exiting the penis) can prevent sperm from reaching the egg.
  • Cancer and Tumors: Cancers of the reproductive organs or treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can affect sperm production.
  • Undescended Testicles: In some cases, one or both testicles may not descend from the abdomen into the scrotum during fetal development, impacting sperm production.
  • Hormonal Imbalances: Abnormal levels of testosterone or other hormones can disrupt sperm production or function.
  • Blocked Tubes: Blockages in the vas deferens or other tubes can prevent sperm from reaching the semen.
  • Chromosome Defects: Genetic abnormalities can affect sperm development.
  • Celiac Disease: This autoimmune disorder can sometimes contribute to infertility in men.
  • Certain Medications: Some medications can have side effects that impair sperm production.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to chemicals, heavy metals, excessive heat (hot tubs, saunas), or tight-fitting clothing can potentially reduce sperm quality.
  • Lifestyle Habits: Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and drug use can negatively impact sperm health and quantity.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese can affect hormone levels and sperm production.

When to See a Doctor

If you’ve been trying to conceive for a year (or six months if your partner is over 35) without success, it’s advisable to consult a doctor. Additionally, seek medical advice if you experience any of the following:

  • Low sex drive, ejaculation problems, erection problems, or other sexual issues.
  • Pain or swelling in the testicles.
  • A history of sexual problems or infections.
  • Your partner is over 35 years old.

Diagnosis of Male Infertility

A thorough evaluation will be conducted by a doctor specializing in male infertility (urologist or andrologist). This typically involves:

  • Medical History: A detailed discussion about your medical history, medications, lifestyle habits, and any past surgeries.
  • Physical Examination: A physical exam to assess the testicles and other reproductive organs.
  • Semen Analysis: This is the primary test to evaluate sperm count, motility, and morphology (shape).

Other Tests: Depending on the initial findings, additional tests like scrotal ultrasound, hormone testing, or DNA fragmentation analysis might be recommended to pinpoint the specific cause of infertility.

Treatment Options for Male Infertility

The good news is that male infertility is often treatable. The course of treatment depends on the underlying cause. Here’s an overview of the different approaches:

  • Medications and Hormone Treatments: If the cause is a hormonal imbalance or an infection, medications can be prescribed to address the issue and improve sperm production.
  • Treatment for Specific Problems: For conditions like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, medications or counselling can help achieve and maintain an erection or delay ejaculation, respectively.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery can be performed to correct varicoceles, blocked tubes, or reverse vasectomies.
  • Sperm Retrieval Techniques: If there is no sperm in the ejaculate, sperm can be retrieved directly from the testicles or epididymis using techniques like microsurgical sperm aspiration (MESA) or testicular sperm extraction (TESE) for use in assisted reproductive technologies (ART).
  • Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART): When other methods fail or severe infertility is present, ART procedures like intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be considered. In ICSI, a single healthy sperm is injected directly into an egg to achieve fertilization. IVF involves fertilization outside the body, followed by the implantation of the resulting embryo(s) into the woman’s uterus.

Tips to Improve Male Fertility

While some causes of infertility might be beyond your control, there are lifestyle changes you can adopt to optimize your fertility:

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight or underweight can affect sperm production. Aim for a healthy body mass index (BMI).
  • Embrace a Folic Acid-Rich Diet: Folic acid is crucial for healthy sperm development. Include green leafy vegetables, fruits, and fortified grains in your diet.
  • Manage Stress: Chronic stress can lower testosterone levels and sperm production. Practice relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.
  • Ditch Smoking and Limit Caffeine: Smoking and excessive caffeine intake can negatively impact sperm health.
  • Avoid Excessive Heat: Hot tubs, saunas, and tight-fitting clothing can elevate scrotal temperature, potentially harming sperm production.
  • Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity can improve sperm quality and overall health.
  • Address Underlying Medical Conditions: Manage any existing medical conditions that could be contributing to infertility.
  • Seek Help if Needed: If you’re struggling to conceive naturally, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a urologist or fertility specialist. They can guide you through the diagnosis and treatment process and help you achieve your dream of parenthood.

By understanding the causes of male infertility, the diagnostic process, and the available treatment options, men can take an active role in their fertility journey. Remember, early diagnosis and intervention are key to improving your chances of conception and building a healthy family. Book an appointment with us today.

Aansh Ivf Hospital