It is a common myth that female issues are usually that reason for pregnancy delay. Male fertility problems account for around 40% of the problems that couples experience when trying for a baby.
What are common causes of male fertility issues?
The most common causes of male fertility issues are:
- 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, for example cystic fibrosis or a chromosomal abnormality, can cause male infertility.
Specific conditions affecting male infertility include:
Immunological infertility occurs when the immune system identifies part of the 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.
Queensland Fertility Group’s andrology laboratories can determine the degree of antibody binding in the semen. This allows our clinicians to recommend the appropriate treatment. Often, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) can be used in this case to help achieve pregnancy.
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 or surgically retrieved from the testes, and depending on their quality, used in Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), or more likely, IVF or an IVF cycle with 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. In these cases, sperm can be retrieved surgically from the testes and used for IVF or IVF with ICSI.
There is no cause found for the majority of male infertility cases – up to a third of men have sperm of subnormal quality – from mild to severely affected cases. Queensland Fertility Group have many treatment strategies available for the different forms of male infertility.
What affects sperm quality?
Sperm quality can 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
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.
Contrary to popular opinion here is no scientific evidence that wearing tight clothes or bike shorts affects the quality of your sperm. Vitamins and supplements also have little direct 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, the detection of sperm antibodies, plus specific sperm functional tests such as sperm-egg interaction and the identification of sperm DNA damage.
Treating male fertility issues
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), involves the direct injection of a single sperm into each egg to facilitate fertilisation. It is usually recommended for couples where male fertility is a problem, especially if it relates to 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, using sperm retrieved directly from the testes using a needle. A single sperm is then chosen and injected directly into the egg to facilitate fertilisation.
Overcoming male infertility
For more information about overcoming male infertility, download the booklet below or visit our Patient Information Booklets page.
If you know or suspect abnormal sperm production could be contributing to fertility issues, a Queensland Fertility Group Fertility Specialist can help. Our Specialists are highly trained in all aspects of fertility, including the management and treatment of male factor fertility issues.
For more information or to make an appointment with a Fertility Specialist, call 1800 111 483 or send us an email.