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Male Infertility FAQs

Following are the common questions about Male Infertility:

  1. What is male infertility?
  2. What are the causes of male infertility?
  3. What are the symptoms of male infertility?
  4. When to see a doctor for male infertility?
  5. Who treats male infertility?
  6. How is male infertility diagnosed?
  7. How is male infertility treated?
  8. What are the risk factors of male infertility?
  9. What are the complications of male infertility?
  10. Can I prevent male infertility?
  11. Do insurance plans cover infertility treatment?
  12. How common is male infertility?
  13. If we are concerned that our infertility may be related to the male side, how can I get to check it out?
  14. Does my chance of infertility increase as I get older?
  15. Can I take any supplements to increase my sperm quality?

Q. What is male infertility?

A. Male infertility is when a man cannot impregnate his female partner due to decreased quality and quantity of sperm. Research suggests that nearly 1 in 7 couples is infertile. Multiple factors such as low sperm production, abnormal sperm function, or blockages of sperm are the reasons for male infertility. In addition, factors including illness, injuries, chronic health conditions, lifestyle choices, etc., can significantly contribute to male infertility.

Q. What are the causes of male infertility?

A. While the causes of male infertility vary from case to case, the following are considered the major causes of male infertility:-

  • Varicocele:- Enlargement of the veins within the scrotum is called varicocele. This condition may develop due to poorly functioning valves found in the veins. In other cases, a varicocele may occur from a compression of a vein by a nearby structure. Varicocele causes low sperm production and decreased sperm quality, leading to male infertility.
  • Sperm Flow Blockage:- Several conditions can cause a blockage in sperm flow, and these can commonly be corrected with minor surgery. Blockages can potentially cause sperm count to be significantly lower or not present at all.
  • Hormonal Problems:- Hormonal problems, sometimes caused by obesity, can also decrease or halt sperm production.
  • Genetic Abnormalities:- Factors such as missing, extra, broken sperm DNA fragmentation, or damaged individual genes on the Y chromosome can impact male fertility.
  • Infection: Specialist doctors suggest that prostate or epididymis infections can significantly affect male fertility.

Apart from all the above, stress, medication, surgical treatment, its side effects can also interfere with sperm quality and quantity.

Q. What are the symptoms of male infertility?

A. One of the main symptoms of male infertility is the inability to conceive a child. There may not be other apparent signs or symptoms of this problem. However, in some cases, underlying conditions such as hormonal imbalance, dilated veins around the testicle, inherited disorder, or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm causes symptoms. This may include the following:-

  • A lower sperm count
  • Difficulty in sexual function, such as ejaculation.
  • Decreased sexual desire or difficulty maintaining an erection
  • Feeling pain, swelling, or a lump in the testicle.
  • Recurrent respiratory infections
  • Abnormal breast growth (gynecomastia)
  • Decreased facial and body hair or other signs of a hormonal or chromosomal abnormality.

Q. When to see a doctor for male infertility?

A. We suggest you visit a doctor if you cannot conceive a child after one year of regular and unprotected sexual intercourse. However, see a doctor immediately in case of the following:-

  • Erection or ejaculation problems
  • Low sex drive or other problems with sexual functions
  • Pain, swelling, discomfort, or a lump in the testicle area
  • A history of the issues associated with testicle, prostate, or sexual intercourse
  • A groin, testicle, scrotum, or penis surgery

Q. Who treats male infertility?

A. There are a variety of doctors who specialize in the treatment of fertility. These are commonly known as infertility specialists. However, doctors specializing particularly in male infertility are mostly urologists and reproductive endocrinologists.

Q. How is male infertility diagnosed?

A. The urologist first recommends specific tests to confirm infertility and other underlying conditions. The following tests are done to diagnose male infertility:-

  • Semen analysis
  • Ultrasound
  • Hormone testing
  • MRI of the genital
  • Vasography
  • Testicular biopsy
  • Genetic testing

Q. How is male infertility treated?

A. In most infertility cases, around 80-90 percent are treated with conventional; therapies such as drug treatment and surgical repair of the reproductive organs. However, treatment can range depending on the findings of the tests.

Low sperm count is treated by placing semen through a sperm wash and completing an Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). When IUI fails to result in pregnancy, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is used to provide a high chance of success.

When anatomical abnormalities such as retrograde ejaculation decrease sperm quality and quantity, the doctor uses surgical procedures to correct it. If ejaculation doesn’t happen, the doctor takes sperm from the testes and uses it in IVF treatment.

Also, donor sperm is available for those who have undergone cancer treatment and no longer have viable sperm.

Q. What are the risk factors of male infertility?

A. The following factors are linked to male infertility:-

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Consuming alcohol
  • Using certain illicit drugs
  • Being overweight
  • Having specific past or present infections
  • Being exposed to toxins
  • Overheating the testicles
  • Have trauma to the testicles
  • Undergone a vasectomy or major abdominal or pelvic surgery.
  • Having a history of undescended testicles
  • A man born with a fertility disorder or having a blood relative with a fertility disorder.
  • Certain medical conditions include tumors and chronic illnesses such as sickle cell disease.
  • Taking certain medications or undergoing medical treatments such as surgery or radiation to treat cancer.

Q. What are the complications of male infertility?

A. The most common complications of male infertility are stress and relationship difficulties related to the inability to conceive a child.

Q. Can I prevent male infertility?

A. Male infertility is not always preventable. However, you can do the following to avoid known causes of male infertility:-

  • Don't smoke
  • Limit or abstain from alcohol
  • Steer clear of illicit drugs
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don't get a vasectomy
  • Reduce stress
  • Refrain yourself from pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxins.
  • Avoid things that lead to prolonged heat for testicles.

Q. Do insurance plans cover infertility treatment?

A. The degree of services covered depends on where you live, the type of insurance plan you have, the type of treatment you need, and your healthcare service provider.

Q. How common is male infertility?

A. Study shows that male reproductive issues cause one-third of infertility cases. However, one-third of fertility cases are caused by male and female reproductive issues or unknown factors.

Q. If we are concerned that our infertility may be related to the male side, how can I get to check it out?

A. The best and easiest way to evaluate possible male infertility is through semen analysis. This test examines the concentration, motility, and shape of the sperm.

Q. Does my chance of infertility increase as I get older?

A. Age plays a factor when it comes to male infertility. However, it's different from the age factor in females. Research suggests that male fertility may begin to decline around the age of 40 even though men are still capable of fathering child well into their 70's or later. Smoking, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, and eating processed foods are habits that may increase the effect of aging on infertility. Avoiding these habits may improve your fertility.

Q. Can I take any supplements to increase my sperm quality?

A. Yes, you can try certain supplements to increase the quality of your sperm. For example, you can try antioxidants such as vitamin C, fish oil, or vitamin B complex under the guidance of a urologist or fertility specialist. However, there is no conclusive evidence that taking these supplements will improve semen quality.