1 in 7 couples have problems getting pregnant. 1/3 are male, 1/3 are female, and 1/3 are either both or unexplained.
Male infertility afflicts about 50% of all infertile couples. Within one year of trying, 80-85% of couples will get pregnant but it takes longer than a year for 15-20% of couples. Male infertility is usually diagnosed when there is a problem with his sperm analysis, either no sperm or not enough, or abnormal sperm.
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Most common physical causes of male infertility:
- Sperm can become trapped inside the testicles
- STD's (sexually transmitted diseases) can cause male tube damage
- Varicoceles (this is where the veins around the testicles enlarge)
- Mumps, if a man had mumps as a child, this could have caused a drop in sperm production.
- Some genetic illnesses
- Some cancer treatments can cause damage to the cells that produce sperm
- Testicles that didn't descend at birth can cause poor quality sperm and reduced sperm production
- Vasectomy reversal can lead to low-quality sperm
- Hormonal problems can lead to poor quality or low levels of sperm.
Psychological and lifestyle causes
These can be psychological as well as medical problems, such as:
- Erectile dysfunction, or difficulty in getting or maintaining an erection
- Lifestyle and stress
- Some recreational drugs can affect sperm production. Medicinal prescribed drugs can also affect the quality of sperm. If you are taking a prescribed drug, make sure that your GP knows that you are planning to start a family. Some anabolic steroids will cease sperm production completely!
Testing for male infertility
If you and your partner have been trying to get pregnant for over a year, it may be advisable to visit your GP. Tests for male infertility may include:
- Semen analysis
- Medical history check
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Some forms of genetic testing
- Sperm function testing
- Testicular biopsy
Once the reason for male infertility has been established, infertility treatment can begin.