Male infertility is the sole factor in around a third of couples who failed to get pregnant after several years of trying to conceive. Total infertility is very rare in men in most cases, a man becomes subfertile because he has a low sperm count, slow-moving sperm, or the sperm quality is poor. Healthy men, and most less-than-healthy ones too, continuously produce sperm. The sperm production process takes around 75 days to complete, and lots of factors can influence the quality of sperm during this process. Very often, the cause of a man's low sperm count, poor quality of sperm, or slow or no movement, is never revealed. It's even possible for a man to show perfectly normal sperm analysis results, but to still be unable to get his partner pregnant. Having said, here are some of the most common known causes of male infertility.
As with women, lifestyle factors should be the first to find themselves under the microscope. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, a junk food diet, and even overhearing the testicles by wearing tight underwear all of these things can cause subfertility and even infertility. Let's have a look how:
- Smoking interferes with sperm's ability to propel themselves forward, and also makes sperm smaller in size. There is some evidence that smoking alters the genetic makeup of a man's sperm as well. What's more, the second-hand smoke your partner will be exposed to will also lower her fertility.
- Alcohol, when used in excess, will decrease sperm count. Of course, it damages your lover too.
- Nutritional deficiencies will affect the quality of a man's sperm. Get tested when you start trying to conceive.
- Being overweight or underweight is generally associated with poor nutrition, but weight itself also impacts fertility.
- Testicular overheating interferes with sperm production. Avoid having a computer in your lap, wearing tight underwear, or having hot baths all the time.
- Stress is another possible factor, though it is not clear how and why.
Hormonal disorders are a rarer causes of male infertility, but they should still be examined as a possibility during the fertility testing process. Hypothyroidism, a thyroid that functions too slowly, can slow down sperm production, lead to a poor semen quality, and is linked to a low sex drive as well. Some hormones lead to infertility when they appear in excessive quantities, while low levels or other hormones have exactly the same effect. Hormonal disorders can be the underlying cause of low sperm count, poor semen quality, and sperm that doesn't move properly. Small sperm cell size and decreased libido are other consequences of hormonal disorders.
A varicocele is a dilation of the blood vessels in the scrotum. This can interfere with the sperm production process and lead to a poor sperm quality as well. Though a varicocele which isn't unlike varicose veins in the legs can cause infertility, it doesn't always. On the other hand, men whose fertility was obstructed by a varcicocele may not regain their fertility when they have the varicocele surgically treated. With retrograde ejaculation, a man's sperm ends up in the bladder rather than being ejaculated. This can happen because the bladder sphincter doesn't function properly. Some men are born without vas deferens, the tubes that lead sperm from the testicles to the penis, while others have theirs blocked as a result of infections like chlamydia, physical injury, or a vasectomy (which is, obviously, a voluntary procedure which you would definitely know about!).