3 Causes of Infertility for Men

Infertility affects men just as much as it does women. By definition it is classed as the struggle to conceive after a year of trying. The way to know whether you’re infertile is fertility testing which can identify if there’s an underlying cause, or if it’s just completely unexplained. There are several probable reasons, such as low sperm count, poor sperm morphology, poor sperm motility, anti-sperm antibodies, DNA fragmentation, blocked tubes, damaged testes, medical environmental factors, ejaculatory dysfunction, and genetics. In this post we shall focus on the three concerning sperm quality (sperm count, morphology, motility) and the options available for conception.

Infertility for men concerns the quality of sperm produced. It’s concentration in semen can affect the likelihood of the egg and sperm fusing. If it’s on the lower side, there’s less of a chance that your sperm will meet an egg. 

The other is sperm motility. This concerns how sperm swim. For conception to take place sperm must make its way from the vagina, through the cervix and the womb, all the way up to the fallopian tubes where they wait to be fertilised. In some cases, sperm don’t swim as they should, or are unable to move at all which means that conception is unlikely. 

Aside from swimming, there’s the actual act of the two fusing as sperm must penetrate the egg for fertilisation. For some men this doesn’t happen as easily due to poor sperm morphology (the shape of their sperm). Defects can be to the head, midpiece or tail. However, defects like these are actually considered quite normal. In a sperm sample it’s common for only 4% to fall under the normal criteria and for the remaining 96% to be abnormal. This is considered to be the normal range. To put things into perspective, ​​100 million sperm are in an average sample. If 96% of them were classed as morphologically abnormal, there are still 4 million normal sperm cells for conception.

Fertility Treatments

While it must be judged on a case-by-case basis, IUI (Intrauterine insemination) and IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) can help couples conceive. 

Intrauterine Insemination 

Intrauterine insemination can help men struggling with infertility to conceive. It’s a fertility treatment available to couples struggling to get pregnant which involves screening sperm for those of the highest quality and injecting them directly into the womb. This makes conception an easier process as it removes the distance needed to travel and improves the likelihood of the two meeting. 

In Vitro Fertilisation

While similar, in IVF fertilisation takes place outside of the womb. Eggs are fused in a lab using instruments and are grown by an embryologist until they are ready to be transferred into the uterus. Although the chances of success are higher, there is no guarantee of pregnancy, and couples may need multiple cycles.

There are also lots of ways that men can improve their chances of conceiving naturally. Having a good diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising can help to improve sperm count and quality and thus improve fertility. Below are a few steps you should consider taking:

  1. Include high fibre starchy foods in your diet like potatoes, rice, bread, and pasta.
  2. Consume dairy products, fish, eggs, meat, and plant-based proteins. 
  3. Have at least five different portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Avoiding harmful habits such as smoking, recreational drug use and alcohol can also improve sperm quality and your chances of starting a family. 

To learn more about what’s affecting your chances, consider fertility screening as a couple. For men this procedure involves a semen analysis. As sperm can take 3 months to form, follow up tests can be useful. 

Until next time.

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