We don’t always know what causes infertility for a couple. Researchers tell us that about a third of conception problems have to do with a male factor and about a third are to do with the female partner. The final third are divided pretty evenly between unknown causes and a problem with fertility for both partners.
If you’re struggling with trying to make a baby, you need to understand a little bit about what can impact male fertility. Here are some of the top things that can keep your swimmers from making it to and fertilizing an egg:
- Sperm delivery trouble: There are a number of things that can keep sperm from getting to its destination. Premature ejaculation, a blockage in the testicles, a varicocele (a blockage in the tube coming out of the testicle that delivers sperm) and even a blockage of the vas deferens can all cause problems with sperm getting where it needs to be.
- Health and lifestyle concerns: Obesity, alcohol use, improper nutrition and smoking can all impact your fertility to varying degrees.
- Drug use or abuse: Some drugs can impair fertility, even if they help with some other health concern. Abuse of drugs, especially anabolic steroids and opiates, have also been linked to infertility in men.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to chemicals such as pesticides or the hormones used in birth control pills can lessen your fertility. Frequent exposure of the testicles to heat can, too. Handling of heavy metals is another environmental concern.
- Sperm production problems: There are a number of reasons why you might not be producing sperm or enough sperm, such as a genetic factor, infections (either of the reproductive tract or systemic infections) and even undescended testicles.
- Age: While men can still be fertile well into their golden years, fertility tends to decrease significantly beginning in your late 30s, with a marked decline after the age of 45.
- Cancer and cancer treatments: Testicular cancer can impair fertility. Removal of the testicles (one or both) can also cause infertility. Radiation and chemotherapy both have potentially devastating effects on fertility, too.
- Stress: While the degree to which stress impacts fertility is debated, there is evidence to suggest that regular unmanaged stress can be a factor in infertility for both men and women.
- Hormone imbalances: Some men have problems with the endocrine system and the way it manages their fertility. It might be an overproduction of certain hormones that interferes with your balance of sex hormones, or it might be something like low testosterone levels.
- Illness: Everything from gonorrhea to influenza to the mumps can all cause problems with male infertility. Other conditions that can affect your fertility include tuberculosis, typhoid, syphilis, smallpox and chlamydia.
If you’re having trouble making a baby, talk to your doctor. He may be able to help diagnose what exactly might be causing your infertility. In many cases, it’s something as simple as clearing up an infection or quitting smoking. For other men, more advanced reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be necessary.