In the UK approximately 15% of couples experience infertility when attempting to conceive their first child (primary infertility). In around 40% of these cases, male infertility is considered to be the major factor.
There are all sorts of reasons why a man is considered infertile, and the search for an effective male infertility treatment is wide ranging.
This article on male infertility and male infertility treatment is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
Problems with sperm are the leading cause of male infertility: they must be plentiful, able to move in the right direction (motile) and normally shaped (not malformed). They must be strong enough to escape the seminal fluid, penetrate the cervical mucus, swim towards the fallopian tube, and penetrate the outer shell of the woman’s egg. They should also be chromosomally perfect to prevent abnormal development in the baby.
Male infertility treatment is available for many problems.
What causes it?
Unfortunately, there is a very broad range of factors that can cause male infertility:
- Obstructive problems in the vas deferens, such as a blockage caused by scar tissue
- Testicular injury, infection and disease (such as mumps)
- Varicocele – varicose veins in the testes
- Hydrocele – excessive fluid around the testes
- Genetic (congenital) disorders such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, etc
- Sperm disorders, such as low motility, deformed sperm, or a low sperm count
- Retrograde ejaculation - a rare condition of backwards ejaculation into the bladder
- Erection or other ejaculation dysfunction
- Torsion teste – where the testicle twists around causing a lack of blood supply
- Drugs or medications that reduce fertility, such as chemotherapy drugs, prescription drugs for ulcers or psoriasis, alcohol, or marijuana
- Lifestyle factors – drinking, smoking, being overweight, poor diet
- Environmental toxins, pollution, and radiation
- Hormonal disorders, such as Kallmann’s syndrome or pituitary problems
- Heat – if the temperature in the scrotum is too hot it can damage sperm quality
- Frequent ejaculation – you are most fertile after about 3 days of abstinence. If you ejaculate 2-3 times a day your sperm may be too immature
- Excessive alcohol
- Sperm antibodies – some men produce antibodies that kill sperm
There are some male infertility treatments that you can try at home in order to improve your chances of conceiving. These include:
- Taking vitamin and mineral supplements
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Stopping smoking
- Cutting out alcohol
- Reducing caffeine (tea, coffee, fizzy drinks)
- Taking regular exercise
- Reducing stress
- Not using recreational drugs
Medical help and treatment
Medical male infertility treatment is based on a combination of factors, including your age, your general state of health, and your preference of the desired outcome.
Male infertility treatments are targeted to match the cause of the problem:
- Steroid treatment – if your body makes sperm antibodies, taking steroids can help reduce their levels.
- Surgery for anatomical problems or barriers can remove blockages or varicoceles.
- Assisted reproductive technologies are available, such as IUI (Intrauterine Insemination), GIFT (Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer), IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). Donor sperm can also be used.
- Hormonal treatments – appropriate for men with a hormonal disorder affecting their fertility. Drugs given can include gonadotrophin therapy, antibiotics, or another medication.