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A Guide to Infertility in Men
Head Urologist & Andrologist
2021-03-30

A Guide to Infertility in Men

We know that the possibility of male infertility can be daunting, especially when you are trying to start a family. This is why we have created this guide on infertility in men, to take you through an explanation of what it really means, signs and symptoms, possible causes, and treatments you may consider in the future.

Read on to learn more, or speak to us at GENNET City Fertility today to talk with one of our members of staff and to book an appointment.

What is Male Infertility?

Male infertility is a term referring to a man’s inability to impregnate a fertile woman. The problem accounts for around 40-50% of fertility issues recorded around the world, with 7% of men affected overall.

Nearly 1 in 7 couples will struggle with conceiving a child naturally, and according to the NHS 1 in 3 of these couples will find that the problem relates to the male partner’s sperm. This is particularly common, and the quality of a man’s semen is often used as a measure of his fertility in medical examinations.

There are two types of infertility:

  • Primary infertility, which means you and your partner have never had children together
  • Secondary infertility, which means that you and your partner have had children previously but are now having issues with conceiving

Fertility issues may be affecting you, your partner, or even both of you at the same time. This is why both of you should seek advice if you are having trouble expanding your family.

As a specialist fertility clinic, we understand the stigma that comes with knowing you have fertility problems, or issues with conceiving. This is why it’s important for us to note that male fertility problems are very common, and you are not alone in your struggle. It’s also equally important for us to say that having issues with fertility is nothing to be ashamed of, as feeling awkward or embarrassed about the problem often prevents people from seeking treatment.

You should also remember that even if the term “infertility” is used, this doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be able to have a child. In many cases, treatment for male infertility can still help patients to conceive and have a family with their partner, and some may even end up conceiving a child. 

The treatments available at GENNET City Fertility will be discussed with you when you come for a free consultation and decide to receive treatment with us.

What are the Signs of Infertility in Men?

The most noticeable symptom of infertility in men is the inability to conceive a child. Many of the other signs won’t be as obvious until further tests and examinations are carried out. 

In many of these cases infertility in men will actually be a symptom of its own, which will then lead to the diagnosis of something else. Underlying problems such as inherited disorders and genetic diseases, hormonal imbalances, dilated veins around the testicle or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm may all have infertility as a sign or a symptom.

Other signs and symptoms that you may notice include:

  • Problems with sexual function (e.g. difficulty with ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, or reduced sexual desire)
  • Blood in your semen
  • Pain, swelling, or even a lump in the testicle area
  • Abnormal breast growth (gynecomastia)
  • Decreased facial or body hair, or other signs of a chromosomal or hormonal abnormality
  • A lower than normal sperm count (fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen)
  • Recurrent respiratory infections (Kartagener’s syndrome)
  • An inability to smell (Kallmann syndrome)

It’s usually recommended that you should consult with your doctor or a fertility specialist if you have been unable to conceive a child after a year of trying. However, if you are experiencing problems with sexual function or have noticed pain, swelling, or lumps in your testicles then we highly suggest that you speak with a professional immediately. 

Having the problem seen to and dealt with sooner rather than later may be beneficial in terms of your health, and will ensure you get peace of mind whether or not the issue turns out to be serious.

You should also speak with a doctor or specialist as soon as possible if you have a history of testicle, prostate, or sexual problems, or have previously had surgery on your groin, testicles, penis, or scrotum.

Male Infertility Causes

The way a male body produces sperm is a complex process, and it requires healthy function in the testicles, the hypothalamus, and the pituitary glands (the organs in the brain responsible for hormones that trigger sperm production). Sperm cells are also transported through a delicate system of tubes until they mix with semen and are eventually ejaculated. 

If any parts of this system are affected by something else, there is a chance that male infertility (particularly reduced sperm production) may be a result.

The most common causes of male infertility can be split into three factors: medical, environmental, and health or lifestyle choices. We have separated these below for your convenience:

Medical Causes of Infertility in Men

  • Celiac disease
  • Chromosome defects
  • Defective tubules that would transport sperm
  • Having antibodies that attack sperm cells
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Infections
  • Medications you are taking (please speak to your doctor about these for the medication types which may cause fertility issues)
  • Prior surgeries
  • Problems with ejaculation (such as retrograde ejaculation) or other sexual functions
  • Tumours 
  • Undescended testicles during development 
  • Varicocele (swelling of the veins that drain the testicle)

Environmental Causes of Infertility in Men

  • Exposure to heavy metals (such as lead)
  • Industrial chemicals (including herbicides or pesticides)
  • Radiation or X-rays
  • Overheating the testicles (frequently using saunas or hot tubs, for example)

Health and Lifestyle Factors Which Can Cause Infertility in Men

  • Ageing (though this is less of a factor in infertility in men than it is in women)
  • Depression
  • Drug use (especially anabolic steroid use, which can cause the testicles to shrink, and cocaine and marijuana, which may reduce sperm quality and count)
  • Emotional stress
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Occupation (certain occupations have been linked to a risk of male infertility, including welding and jobs associated with prolonged sitting. However, the data involved in studies showing this has been inconsistent)
  • Sperm testing issues (testing a sample taken too soon after your last ejaculation, testing a sample taken after an illness or a stressful event, or testing a sample that didn’t contain all of the semen ejaculated, i.e. some was spilled)
  • Weight (obesity can often affect fertility, either by directly impacting on the sperm or by causing hormonal changes that can reduce male fertility)

Male Infertility Treatment Options

Even if an exact cause of infertility cannot be found, a specialist should still be able to recommend a series of fertility treatments that could soon see you on the journey to parenthood. 

In many cases, a doctor may begin by suggesting that you and your partner try to conceive naturally for a little while longer. Even if a couple doesn’t conceive within the first year of trying, many succeed within the second year without any assistance, so there is a good chance that it will work for you as well. 

To help this along yourself (and potentially improve fertility factors such as your sperm count), there are a number of things that you can do:

  • Exercise regularly and stay in shape
  • Keep a healthy, balanced diet
  • Moderate your alcohol consumption
  • Stop smoking
  • Have sex every 2-3 days

If this does not work, or a diagnosis has been made that suggests that it will not work, there are also a number of fertility treatment options available for you and your partner. These include:

  • Assisted reproductive technology (ART, which may involve IVF or ICSI)
  • Hormone treatments and medications
  • Surgery, especially in cases where the problem is a varicocele or a prior vasectomy
  • Treatments for infections (antibiotics)
  • Treatments for problems with sexual function (this may involve medication or counselling)

At our private clinic in London, we may also suggest using sperm from a donor if you are not able to use your own. If you would like to see a full list of the male treatments we have available, please see our page.

Our Assessments at GENNET City Fertility

If you and your partner are planning on starting a family but feel you may need some help along the way, we are able to offer a variety of investigations and assessments that will provide clarification on what you need to take the next step. The first of these is our Male Fertility Assessment, a straightforward procedure that involves collecting a sample from you for a semen analysis.

The semen sample taken will be tested for a number of different parameters and factors which could indicate male infertility. These include sperm count, morphology (the shape of the sperm), and motility (the sperm cell’s ability to move and the percentage of them that can move). The results that come from these tests should help us to predict the chances of natural conception, or give an indication of any underlying issues.

Our One Stop Male Fertility Clinic

We can also offer you a more comprehensive package session, which sees your tests carried out and the results explained in a shorter period of time. This 45-60 minute session is run once per week by our Head Urologist and Andrologist, Mr Raheem, and also offers a precautionary scan (to rule out testis cancer), advice, and any necessary treatment based on the results of your assessment.

You will also spend time in consultation with a specialist, who will also be able to offer you advice and recommendations for your lifestyle, based on the results of the tests carried out. These may help to improve your chances of conceiving naturally.

To find out more about this session, or to book your own slot, please see our One Stop Male Fertility Clinic page.

Contact Us to Book a Consultation and Assessment

If you and your partner are ready to take the next step in the journey to parenthood but feel as though you may need assistance getting there, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. 

We can soon have you booked in for a free consultation with one of our dedicated specialists at our private clinic in London, and after an initial assessment, they will be able to point you in the right direction for the tests and treatment you need to start the family you’ve always wanted.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can STDs Cause Infertility in Men?

It is possible for sexually transmitted infections and diseases to cause infertility in men. The process is often similar to the way Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) damages a woman’s fallopian tubes; the structures of the male reproductive tract (including the epididymis and the urethra) can be damaged by an infection. Viral infections and immunodeficiency caused by HIV can also reduce semen quality.

Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Infertility in Men?

Several studies have shown that having low levels of Vitamin D in the body can impair semen quality, with infertile men being noted as having significantly lower sperm production than men with normal levels.

 
Mr Amr Raheem
Head Urologist & Andrologist