What Causes Infertility in Men?


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Infertility affects both sexes equally, and can be a stressful thing to face both for you as the affected person and your partner. There isn’t much emphasis or mention of male infertility in the media, and that is why it is not as openly discussed or as well-known as female infertility.

Am I infertile?

Whether or not you are infertile depends on how long you have been regularly having sex and how old you are, as well as whether or not you suffer from a number of different conditions which can affect fertility. If you haven’t been able to conceive after a year of regular sex, then there is still no need to panic as many couples will regularly have sexual intercourse for 2-3 years before getting pregnant. The older you are, the longer it takes, as will be discussed in more detail later on this article. If you are worried about infertile after a long period of regular intercourse, then the safest thing to do is to go to your GP or a fertility clinic and discuss your fears. In many cases all that is needed is time and patience, but consulting professionals can set your mind at ease and point out any problems if there are any.

The important thing to remember about infertility is that in most cases infertility is a bit of a misnomer, and subfertility would be a more accurate term. What that means is that while  you may not be able to conceive naturally, there are many medical means by which you can be assisted by modern technology to conceive a child.

What is male infertility?

If you are wondering what male infertility is and what it involves, then this article should shed some light on the subject for you. Pregnancy is achieved by the successful meeting of male sex cells, the sperm, and the female sex cell, the egg. For your sperm to reach the egg and successfully achieve conception, there are a few criteria that need to be met. All of which revolve around getting sperm to get to the egg and fertilise it.

Sperm count, sperm motility, and semen

Semen is extremely important as it provides the materials that sustain your sperm cells as they make their way to the egg. It also contains the sperm cells responsible for conception. Issues with semen are actually the most common reason behind male infertility, accounting for, according to the NHS, 75% of incidences of male infertility.

Firstly there needs to be enough sperm within your semen, the viscous liquid that comes out after ejaculation. This material is full of sugars and proteins that your sperm need to successfully make their way to the egg. Most sperm cells will never make it, which is why having a high sperm count is important.

A low number of sperm or lack of sperm in semen is a major cause of male infertility, and this can be caused by a blockage or infection that prevents sperm, which is manufactured in your testicles, from making it into your semen. The complete lack of sperm in semen is called azoospermia.

Sperm motility is basically sperm cell’s ability to ‘swim’ towards the egg. A sperm cell has a long tail called a flagellum which beats back and forth, and when this movement is compromised sperm are unable to get to the egg. The less motile your sperm, the less fertile they are.

A sperm cell is actually extremely specialised, and not only has the afore mentioned tail for movement, but a number of different bits and bobs that are key to its successful function. If any part of the cell, or even if is shape, is abnormal, then fertility is negatively affected.

Problems with ejaculation

The purpose of ejaculation is, again, to introduce your sex cells to those of your partners. Issues with ejaculation mean that this process is impaired, and this is another cause of male infertility. An example of an ejaculatory issue is retrograde ejaculation, where semen is expelled inwards into your bladder rather than outwards.

Sexual organs

The male sexual organs are the penis and testicles. The latter are responsible for both producing and storing seminal fluid and sperm cells. Therefore it’s not surprising that any damage to the testes can impair fertility, whether because of cancer, surgery, injury, or infection.

Hypogonadism

Hypogonadism is the medical word for low levels of the male hormone testosterone. This hormone is extremely important as it controls sperm production, and when present in low levels your sperm count falls as well. This condition can be brought about by certain cancers, but is more often caused by the abuse of illegal drugs like steroids.

Medicines, drugs, and alcochol

A number of different medicines and drugs can impair different aspects of your fertility by affecting anything from sperm production to ejaculation or sperm motility. These include the notorious anabolic steroids, some herbal treatments, and chemotherapy. Alcohol in excessive amounts has been proven to affect sperm quality, as can smoking.

Stress and weight

Both men and women suffer from the effects of obesity and stress, both of which not only damage your general health and wellbeing, but also reduce fertility. Stress can, for example, diminish the frequency of sexual intercourse and sperm production, both of which are vital to a successful conception.

Age

As men grow older, fertility gradually drops and it becomes more and more difficult to get pregnant. The chances for a successful pregnancy are much higher for younger men, under about the age of 40, as important factors like sperm count and motility are much higher at a younger age.


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