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Male infertility is the inability of a man’s sperm to reach and/or fertilize a woman’s egg. This can be caused by problems with the production, transportation or movement of the sperm.
Men are considered to be infertile if they:
Male infertility extends to any issues with the sperm getting from the testes to the egg, including erectile dysfunction. Male infertility is the sole cause of infertility in approximately 20 percent of couples trying to conceive.
Male infertility is often a symptom of another disorder, such as sexual dysfunction, genetic abnormalities, or such lifestyle factors as obesity. In rare cases, genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis can also cause male infertility.
Male infertility can be reversed or treated as long as some sperm production exists and the sperm can be extracted to use in assisted reproduction. However, sterility (the absence of sperm or sperm production) cannot be treated.
Please note: WIFC only treats male infertility in couples, and not male-only patients. For male-only patients seeking infertility treatment and semen analysis, WIFC refers to a urologist.
The primary symptoms of male infertility are the inability to conceive and the absence of ejaculation. Most men do not experience any other symptoms. However, the root cause of the infertility can have other associated symptoms.
Some other symptoms that men report include problems with sexual function and desire. Men can also experience pain and abnormal growth in the testicles and breasts.
Testing for male infertility starts with an evaluation and physical exam. The evaluation examines the man’s medical history and lifestyle. The physician will go over any serious medical conditions or treatments, including STIs and trauma history, and will ask about tobacco, alcohol, and drug use.
During the physical examination, the physician will look for any external physical problems that could cause infertility, such as varicoceles or undescended testicles. After the physical test, other tests include semen analysis, blood tests, and genetic screenings, where the physician can look at sperm quality and count, hormone levels, and chromosomal abnormalities. The physician may order further tests if needed.
The goal for male infertility treatments is to correct the underlying cause of the infertility in order to achieve pregnancy and have a healthy child.
Medications can help with hormonal issues, and surgeries can address structural problems such as a blockage or impotence. Additionally, some lifestyle treatments, such as weight loss or diet changes, can improve sperm quality and motility.
To overcome most issues with sperm quality, the fertility doctor will likely use assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), IVF or IVF with ICSI.
There are many possible causes of male infertility, which can be diagnosed by a reproductive endocrinologist, often working with a reproductive urologist.
Additional risk factors for male infertility include tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, marijuana use, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), excessive exercise, and other lifestyle factors.