Approximately 15 percent of couples are infertile. This means they aren't able to conceive a child even though they've had frequent, unprotected sexual intercourse for a year or longer. In about half of these couples, male infertility plays a role.
Male infertility is due to low sperm production, misshapen or immobile sperm, or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Illnesses, injuries, chronic health problems, lifestyle choices and other factors can play a role in causing male infertility.
Not being able to conceive a child can be stressful and frustrating, but a number of male infertility treatments are available.
The main sign of male infertility is the inability to conceive a child. There may be no other obvious signs or symptoms. In some cases, however, an underlying problem such as an inherited disorder, hormonal imbalance or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm may cause signs and symptoms. Male infertility signs and symptoms may include:
When to see a doctor
Male fertility is a complex process. To get your partner pregnant, the following must occur:
Health, lifestyle and other causes
A number of risk factors are linked to male infertility. They include:
Infertility can be stressful for both you and your partner. Complications can include:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred to a specialist.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Questions to ask your doctor
Don't hesitate to ask questions at any time during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Many infertile couples have more than one cause of infertility, so it's likely you will both need to see a doctor. It may take a number of tests to determine the cause of infertility. In some cases, a cause is never identified. Infertility tests can be expensive and may not be covered by insurance — find out what your medical plan covers ahead of time.
Diagnosing male infertility problems usually involves:
Your doctor may recommend additional tests to help identify the cause of your infertility. These can include:
Treatments and drugs
Your doctor will try to improve your fertility by either correcting an underlying problem (if one is found) or trying treatments that seem like they may be helpful. Often, an exact cause of infertility can't be identified. Even if an exact cause isn't clear, your doctor may be able to recommend treatments that work. In all cases of infertility, the female partner also will need to be checked and may need treatment. In some cases, treatment of the female partner may help compensate for male fertility problems.
Treatments for male infertility include:
When treatment doesn't work
Lifestyle and home remedies
There are a few steps you can take at home to increase your chances of achieving pregnancy:
Evidence is still limited on whether — or how much — herbs or supplements might help increase male fertility. Some supplements may help only if you have a deficiency.
Supplements that show some promise for improving sperm count or sperm quality include:
Talk with your doctor before taking dietary supplements to review the risks and benefits of this therapy, as some supplements taken in high doses (megadoses) or for extended periods of time may be harmful.
Coping and support
Coping with infertility can be difficult. It's an issue of the unknown — you can't predict how long it will last or what the outcome will be. Infertility isn't necessarily solved with hard work. The emotional burden on a couple is considerable, and plans for coping can help.
Planning for emotional turmoil
Managing emotional stress during treatment
Many types of male infertility aren't preventable. However, you can avoid some known causes of male infertility:
Though the risk isn't conclusive, if you're an avid cyclist, consider using a gel saddle and a full-suspension bicycle. It may also help to avoid wearing very tightfitting clothing for long periods of time.
Last Updated: 2012-09-15
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