Male Infertility Understanding the causes

Infertility is a problem that plagues many couples across the globe, leaving them feeling vulnerable and dejected. The stress of not being able to conceive can be a heavy burden to bear for many, with it being one that leaves them feeling negative with disappointment. More often than not, society plays a role in contributing towards the couple’s weight too – a societal judgement with regards to infertility can be very hard, especially for the women, who are commonly blamed.

But did you know that infertility is an issue that affects men too?  

The National Institutes of Health defines Male Infertility as “Male infertility is defined as the inability of a male to make a fertile female pregnant, also for a minimum of at least one year of unprotected intercourse.” It is a much more commonplace problem than we are led to believe, with male infertility being responsible for at least 20% of infertility cases across the globe.

Causes of Male Infertility 

Male infertility can be caused by a variety of factors. A male patient’s fertility may be very well influenced by medical conditions and issues, lifestyle choices, or environmental factors that are very well beyond the patient’s control. Here are some of the most common factors that affect fertility in males.

Medical Conditions 

  • Hormonal Imbalances: Hormones play a vital role in ensuring that the body works seamlessly and performs all its functions to ensure that you’re always in the pink of health. The balance in the production of hormones must be maintained – an absence of which may cause a lot of health problems, including infertility in men. A lack of adequate production of testosterone or gonadotropins, including Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle-Stimulating hormone (FSH), are prime causes.
  • Genetic Disorders: Male infertility is diagnosed when the male patient’s semen is analyzed, and it indicates a lack of or a deficiency in sperm count – and one common cause for it is when the disorder is passed down genetically. Recent studies have revealed that around 10-15% of infertility cases were attributed to male infertility that was genetically caused. 
  • Infections: There are some infections like Gonorrhea, HIV, Epididymis, or Orchitis that may cause problems like reduced sperm production or sperm health. These infections may also possibly cause the blockage of the passing of sperm. However, it must be noted that most infection-related fertility issues can be reversed. 

Lifestyle Factors 

  • Obesity: A study by Harvard has now revealed that men who struggle with obesity were 11% more likely to display lower sperm count than men who maintain a healthy or ideal weight limit. It has also been observed that obese men were 81% likely to not produce any sperm at all! While it is yet to be confirmed as to whether obesity is the primary reason or if there are any underlying health issues to blame, it is now considered a cause of infertility in men.
  • Substance Abuse: It is obvious and abundantly clear that the usage of drugs can affect a male patient’s fertility. Substances like marijuana comprise a component called Tetrahydrocannabinol, which curbs the production of sperm. Some drugs may also cause restriction of the blood vessels, thus causing the lack of blood flow to the penis – this is the primary cause of erectile dysfunction.
  • Stress: Many acclaimed medical professionals and researchers have reiterated multiple times that being stressed can have adverse effects on male fertility levels. Stress reduces the production of testosterone in men, thus leading to issues with reproductive health.

Types of Male Infertility

  1.  Azoospermia: A man’s ejaculate contains no measurable sperm when he has azoospermia. There are two types of azoospermia:
    • Obstructive Azoospermia: Sperm production is normal in obstructed azoospermia, but the reproductive tracts of both testicles are blocked. This means no measurable sperm can get into the sperm. Each side of the scrotum may have a different problem for some patients.
    • Non-obstructive azoospermia: This type is poor sperm production. Semen does not contain enough sperm for it to be detected. While it is difficult to treat, medical advancement has ensured that we can restore sperm to the semen in some cases.
  2.  Oligospermia: Oligospermia is a medical ailment that affects men, wherein the male’s sperm count is very low. This condition can be looked at in three ways, namely- 
    • Mild: In this condition, the sperm count is between 10-15 million.
    • Moderate: In this condition, sperm count is between 5 to 10 million.
    • Severe: When a patient suffers from severe oligospermia, his semen is said to have a sperm count of 0-5 million.
  3.  Teratospermia: Also known as Teratozoospermia, this is a condition where the males produce irregularly shaped sperm which affects their chances of fertilizing an egg. In cases like these, sperms are observed to have had a round head, two tails, or two heads.

Diagnosing Male Infertility

Male Infertility is a condition that can be diagnosed in a multitude of ways. Here are some of the common methods for diagnosis.

  • Physical Exam and Medical History: When it comes to physical exams, the doctor would begin by examining the state of the patient’s testicles – if they are small and firm, then it is understood that there is an issue.
  • Semen Analysis: In cases where couples are having difficulty getting pregnant, a semen analysis is often recommended. The test will help a doctor determine if a man is infertile. Additionally, the analysis can help determine if infertility is caused by low sperm counts or sperm dysfunction.
  • Hormone Testing: Any abnormalities or imbalance caused in the sex hormones can lead to fertility issues in men – and for this, hormone testing is conducted. Using the blood samples, the adequate presence of hormones such as FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), LH (Luteinizing Hormone), Testosterone, SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin) and Prolactin are checked for.
  • Genetic Testing: There have been many cases where the issue of infertility in men had to do with genetic abnormalities, rather than much else. In instances like these, it is important to note that genetic testing is the way to go. Some of the tests administered at this time are CFTR Gene Mutations, Karyotype, and Y-chromosome microdeletions (YCMD).

Treatment Options for Male Infertility

Here are some of the many ways in which fertility can be treated in males:

  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI) for male infertility involves injecting washed and prepared sperm into the female partner’s uterus using a catheter (a thin tube). This treatment concentrates on viable sperm. During ovulation, it gives the sperm a head start, bringing them closer to the egg.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF) for male infertility is one of the fertility treatments for men that includes several steps. In our IVF lab, the eggs and sperm are combined in a petri dish after the female partner undergoes ovarian stimulation. After fertilization, the team monitors the embryos’ growth. Once an embryo has been transferred into the uterus of a female partner, doctors perform the procedure.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) with IVF for male infertility promotes fertilization in the lab. For men with extremely low sperm counts, this procedure involves isolating a single healthy-looking sperm. He then injects sperm into each egg. This is an excellent treatment option. It has enabled thousands of men with sperm counts far too low for natural conception to have healthy babies.
  • Donor sperm can help if a man has a sperm count that is too low to achieve pregnancy. Some men also select this option to avoid passing on genetic disorders to their children.

Conclusion

Dealing with male infertility can be quite a task. Apart from the general health setbacks, it is important to note that there could be societal burdens to carry as well – ones that can be just as hard to carry. If you’re suffering from fertility, please first know that you are not alone. Seeking help and guidance for the issue is the best way to cope.

With that being said, receiving proper medical attention is paramount – and at Sudha Fertility Centre, we endeavor to provide exactly that. Our state-of-the-art medical facility and skilled doctors assist us in remaining driven to our goal: to make parenthood an accessible dream for all!

Don’t wait too long to realize your Parenthood dreams. Contact us today!

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