Male Fertility Issues
Unfortunately, stigmas still exist around male fertility issues – primarily that there aren’t any. For whatever reason, over the years it is women who have been the focus of debates around infertility. However, this lack of discussion has caused a lot of confusion as to what kind of factors influence a man’s fertility.
Not surprisingly both female and male infertility can be brought on by any number of factors. From lifestyle to family history, many things are at play when considering why a man may be experiencing fertility problems. That is why we’ve developed this guide to help you learn more about male fertility and male infertility problems.
The Role of Family History in Male Fertility Issues
If there have been other men in your family who have experienced fertility problems, then it is not necessarily unusual for you to also be having troubles. If, however, you have fathered a child before, you may be experiencing secondary infertility. Another relevant moment in a man’s past is whether or not he has had surgery on his groin (or in the groin area) or on his abdomen. Surgery can produce scar tissue or even possibly damage parts of male reproductive organs.
Health and Lifestyle Factors
In addition to genetics, a man’s overall health and lifestyle are the greatest determinants of his fertility. If you or your partner are experiencing problems conceiving, consider the following factors that can affect male infertility:
- Overall Health:
Health issues can affect sperm production. For example, an ulcer or high blood pressure medication can hinder the production of sperm or the sperm's ability to fertilize an egg. In addition, previous illnesses, like the mumps, can actually shrink your partner's testicles and slow down sperm production. Even prolonged exposure to heat (for instance, from a sauna) can interfere with your partner's ability to produce sperm.
Exposure to Toxins:
Toxins that may kill sperm are obviously an important factor to consider. More specifically, these toxins are called gonadotoxins and can be found in pesticides, chemotherapy drugs, alcohol and marijuana.
As if lung cancer wasn’t enough of an incentive to quit smoking, male smokers should also know the chemicals found in cigarettes may also affect their fertility. Cigarettes may lead to lower sperm count and a greater number of abnormal sperm compared to that found in a non-smoker. Alcohol can also cause problems with a man's ability to produce sperm.
Another no-no for men trying to conceive with their partner is the use of steroids, as these drugs can interfere with sperm quality and can cause impotence over time. If your partner’s using products like Rogaine to help his thinning hair, tell him to stop using the product for a few months.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Fertility
For men experiencing fertility issues, it will be a comfort to know there are many therapies available, in the form of both self-care and medical treatment. For starters, it’s a good idea for both individuals in the relationship to make an effort to improve their diet and exercise regularly. In addition, some may choose to try fertility drugs or other surgical or medically supervised treatments.
In order to find out what type of treatment is right for you, talk with your doctor.
Diagnosing Male Infertility
For men experiencing fertility problems it is a good idea to book an appointment with a urologist for further testing. The results of these tests can provide you with more specific answers and lead you towards more effective treatment.
The urologist will perform a series of tests to determine the overall health of the prostate gland. That is, he will examine the contents of the penis and scrotum; the condition of the vas deferens; any tenderness and swelling of the epididymis (the duct that the sperm mature in); in addition to anything else that may be causing a blockage of sperm flow.
The urologist will also check for varicocele. This is a condition that affects almost half of all infertile men and can be easily corrected with surgery. Varicocele is the presence of enlarged veins around the testicles.
In addition to these tests, a doctor will also perform a blood test. The blood test will measure levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), the hormone responsible for producing sperm, and luteinizing hormone (LH). This is the hormone that gets the testicles to produce testosterone. A low LH level may cause a low sperm count, but it can also result in depression, fatigue, loss of bone density and low sex drive.
Finally, the urologist will also assess your genetic history to check for the presence of any genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis that might be passed on to your children.
Depending upon the results of these tests, the urologist may then direct you to a fertility specialist. Some couples decide to see a fertility specialist right away. No matter what, your next course of action in your male fertility treatment should be decided upon in consultation with your doctor.