Problems with sperm production
Infertility is defined as a couple not conceiving after 12 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Male and female fertility problems account for around 40% each of difficulties couples experience when trying for a baby while in about 20% of cases it is a combination of both.
Common causes of male infertility
- Azoospermia - where no sperm cells are produced
- Oligospermia - where fewer normal sperm cells are produced.
Sometimes, sperm cells are malformed, or die before they can reach the egg. In rare cases, genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or a chromosomal abnormality can cause male infertility.
Specific conditions affectin male infertility include:
Immunological Infertility occurs when the immune system identifies part of reproductive system as an ‘enemy’. In the male this involves antibodies being formed against the man’s own sperm, most often as a consequence of obstruction or infection. This can impact the ability of the sperm to reach the egg and fertilise it.
If sperm stick to each other head-to-head, tail-to-tail or in a mixed way, this is known as agglutination, and is often caused by sperm antibodies. Put simply, this means you’ve developed antibodies against your own sperm, which can affect sperm’s ability to penetrate the cervical mucus and fertilize the egg, and therefore the success of any IVF treatment. Queensland Fertility Group andrology laboratories can determine the degree of antibody binding in the semen. This allows our clinicians to recommend the appropriate treatment.
Retrograde Ejaculation occurs when semen, which would normally be ejaculated via the urethra, flows back into the urinary bladder. If a couple is experiencing infertility as a result of retrograde ejaculation and medications are not helping, sperm may be recovered from the urine and dependant of their quality, used in Intrauterine Insemination, or more likely, IVF or ICSI.
Some cases of male infertility are caused by blockages in – or an absence of the vas deferens linking the testes with the penis. This can be due to injury, previous vasectomy or a congenital absence of the tubes leading from testes to penis.
There is no cause found for a majority of male infertility cases – up to a third of men have sperm of subnormal quality – from mild to severely affected cases. We have treatment strategies available for all forms of male infertility.
What affects sperm quality?
If you have conceived a baby with a partner in the past, it is a good sign that your sperm are healthy and you should be able to do it again.
Sperm quality can also be affected by:
- excessive alcohol
- drug use, including prescription medication, steroids and recreational drugs
- excess weight and high Body Mass Index (BMI)
- frequent exposure to extreme heat (such as working in hot temperatures or regular saunas)
- working in cramped conditions (for example, truck drivers)
- acute viral illness
- operations for undescended testes or hernias.
However, there is no scientific evidence that wearing tight clothes or bike shorts affects the quality of your sperm. Vitamins and supplements also have very little impact on your sperm count - but they may help you stay healthy. Sports injuries to the groin will only affect sperm production in extremely severe cases.
Testing male fertility
Our andrology laboratories provide a full range of analytical services, including routine semen analysis, sperm antibodies, specific sperm functional tests such as sperm-egg interaction and sperm DNA damage.
Treating male infertility
IntraCytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
ICSI treatment, or IntraCytoplasmic Sperm Injection, involves the direct injection of a single sperm into each egg using sophisticated equipment. It is usually recommended for couples where male infertility is a problem, especially relating to the number or quality of sperm produced. ICSI can also be used in cases where a man has had a vasectomy and sperm are removed surgically from the testes.
A vasectomy reversal is possible, but it does not guarantee that your sperm will be of sufficient quality to achieve unassisted fertilisation.
Another option is to have IVF treatment using ICSI. We can retrieve sperm directly from the testes with a needle, and then inject a single sperm into each egg.
Overcoming male infertility
For more information about overcoming male infertility, visit our Patient Information Booklets page. This booklet talks about the causes of male infertility, testing and diagnosis, treatment options and coping emotionally. Download our Overcoming Male Infertility Booklet...
If you know or suspect abnormal sperm production could be contributing to fertility issues, a Queensland Fertility Group Fertility Specialist can help. All our Specialists are highly trained in all aspects of fertility, including the management and treatment of male factor fertility issues.
To make an appointment, call 1800 111 483, or email us today.