Male infertility occurs when the sperm fails to fertilise the egg, which can happen for a wide variety of reasons. For example, poor sperm production, blockages, and chronic health problems all contribute to male infertility.
However, in many cases, male infertility can be addressed and overcome. Read ahead to learn more about male infertility and understand how it works, and how you can improve your chances of conception.
These lifestyle factors can cause or worsen male infertility.
In most cases, the only symptom of male infertility is the failure to impregnate one’s female partner. However, there are some underlying problems, such as hormonal imbalances, dilated testicular veins, and blockages in the penis that can all have their own symptoms. Here are some of the symptoms of male infertility you might notice.
A lower sperm count than normal (a sperm count lower than 39 million per ejaculate, or fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen)
If you have been having regular unprotected sex for more than a year and still haven’t conceived, you and your female partner should both see a doctor.
However, if you experience any of the following and haven’t been able to conceive for six months or more, you should see your doctor.
Many couples dealing with infertility have more than one cause or issue going on, and so both parties need to see a doctor. You’ll both go through a number of tests to assess your overall health and fertility. Unfortunately, in many cases, no cause is ever identified – this is called “Unexplained Infertility.”
The tests to diagnose male infertility involve a general medical questionnaire and a comprehensive physical examination. Your doctor will examine your genitals and rear, as well as ask about your sexual history and habits. While these can be sensitive topics, your honesty will help them come to a diagnosis or treatment plan.
Your doctor will also arrange for you to provide a semen sample for analysis. In most cases, you will be shown to a private room at the doctor’s office where you will masturbate and collect your ejaculate in a sample cup. However, certain religions forbid masturbation. In this case, your doctor can arrange to collect semen in an alternative way, such as a special condom used during intercourse.
The lab technicians then assess your sperm for movement (motility) and shape (morphology), as well as overall numbers. They will also test your semen for signs of infections or other problems. Your sperm count can fluctuate dramatically from one sample to the next for a wide array of reasons, which is why your doctor may arrange for several tests over a span of time.
Your testing may also include the following procedures:
In many cases, doctors can’t find the exact cause of male infertility. That said, they can still help you with recommended treatments or procedures that can help you conceive. Your female partner (if applicable) should also be thoroughly examined.
Some of the most common treatments for male infertility include:
In the rare cases where these treatments do not work, you and your partner could also consider using donor sperm to have a child.
Here are some of the most effective ways you can increase your chances of conceiving naturally.
Trying and failing to conceive is stressful and frustrating and can have long-term mental health repercussions, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Keep the lines of communication open with your partner and consider seeking counselling together. It really helps to talk about your feelings during this emotionally fraught process.
Stress-relieving techniques, such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and massage therapy, can all help you relax and manage your emotions. Working out, going for a walk, and even getting a dog or cat can all help relieve stress and put you in a better headspace. It’s worth exploring other routes to parenthood. While this can be a touchy subject, some couples choose to seek parenthood with donor sperm, donor embryos, or through fostering or adoption. There is no ‘one way’ to parenthood.
Finally, some people choose to let go of their dreams of parenthood after years of trying and the stress of failed fertility treatments. This is a painful and difficult choice, but many people describe complex feelings of relief, acceptance, and grief when they decide to stop trying to conceive.