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10 November 2020

How Important Is Male Fertility?

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Sims IVF

For too long the conversation around fertility has centred around female fertility issues, with little attention being given to the male partner's role. While it's true that there are a number of female factors that can lead to an inability to conceive, male factor infertility is far too common an issue to be ignored. In fact, studies show that in cases where a heterosexual couple struggle to conceive, male factor infertility is responsible 30% of the time, with female factor infertility accounting for a further 30% and a combination of male and female factors, as well as unknown factors causing the remaining 40% of infertility cases.

So, what causes male infertility?

The causes of male infertility are many and varied, with health conditions and lifestyle factors both being potential causes.

Causes of male infertility include:

Conditions where no or low quality sperm is produced, e.g. azoospermia, oligospermia and retrograde ejaculation. There are a number of factors that may cause a man to develop these conditions, as per below.

Causes of Azoospermia

  • Groin injuries
  • An infection in the reproductive tract
  • Childhood illnesses that may cause swelling of the testicles, e.g. orchitis
  • Genetic conditions, such as Klinefelter's syndrome

Causes of Oligospermia

  • Varicocele; a condition that causes enlarged blood vessels in the scrotum
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Medications, such as beta blockers, antibiotics and blood pressure medications

Causes of Retrograde Ejaculation

  • Nerve damage caused by a medical condition, e.g. diabetes, spinal cord injury, Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis
  • Some medicines, particularly those used to treat prostate enlargement, high blood pressure and depression
  • Surgeries, such as bladder neck surgery or prostate surgery

Causes of Blockages in the Vas Deferens (the ducts that transport sperm)

  • Previous trauma or injury
  • Cystic fibrosis gene mutations which can cause the normal connection to the urethra not to form
  • Previous surgeries, e.g. hernia repair

There are also some lifestyle and past medical conditions that can affect fertility:

  • Lifestyle factors, such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and recreational drug use
  • Weight issues, i.e. a BMI either below or above the healthy range
  • Age - though age doesn't have as pronounced an effect on male fertility as it does on female fertility, sperm quality has been shown to decrease after the age of 45
  • Some acute viruses can temporarily cause low sperm quality
  • Frequent exposure to heat, e.g. in saunas, can affect sperm production
  • Damage caused by cancer and cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy

How can I find out if I have a fertility problem?

If you've been trying to conceive without success for 12 months (or 6 months if the female partner is 35 or over), it's a good idea to schedule a fertility test. Male fertility tests are performed by a semen analysis. Once our fertility consultants have analysed your sample, we can make a diagnosis and tailored treatment plan for you. 

Is there anything I can do to improve my fertility?

There are a number of advanced scientific treatments available for those who struggle with their fertility so it's important not to lose hope if you are diagnosed with a fertility issue.

There are also some lifestyle changes you can make to improve your chances:

  • Having regular sex is the most significant thing you can do to improve your chances of conceiving. The more sex you have the higher the chance that your sperm will be able to make it to your partner's egg.
  • Stop smoking. Obviously this is easier said than done but there are a number of resources available to help you quit smoking. As for vaping, the scientific community is still not sure of the exact effect it may have on sperm quality but some studies have shown that vaping can have a negative effect on sperm quality. Our advice is to play it safe and avoid both smoking and vaping.
  • Sperm thrive at a body temperature of 35 degrees so it's best to avoid excessive heat, e.g. saunas and hot tubs.
  • Being over or underweight can negatively affect sperm quality so it's important to maintain a healthy BMI.

Can I get fertility advice specific to my needs?

Yes, our fertility specialists would be happy to offer you tailored fertility advice.

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