Causes & Treatment

Male Factor Infertility Causes and Treatments by Laurel Fertility Care

Eloise Edington  |   9 Jun 2021


Despite being the cause of nearly 50% of infertility cases, male infertility is rarely discussed. There is not a lot of common knowledge surrounding the topic, and, as a result, some men who are trying to conceive may be in the dark about the causes of male infertility and at a loss about how to improve their sperm health and quality. Today on Fertility Help Hub, we hear from the fertility experts at Laurel Fertility Care (a boutique fertility clinic in San Francisco), to discuss the common causes of male factor infertility and treatment options available.

Words by Laurel Fertility Care

Causes of Male Infertility

Male infertility is so rarely discussed that some myths surrounding the topic are still believed today. For instance, the idea that sperm stays healthy throughout the entirety of a man’s life is a myth. Fertility rates start to decline around the age of 35, as the quality and motility of the sperm diminish with age.

Another unmentioned factor of male infertility is sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Socially, we are taught that STDs mostly affect fertility in women, but they can also affect male fertility. Various, more extreme STDs can damage parts of the reproductive system that transfers sperm, such as the urethra and epididymis. HIV is responsible for viral infections and immunodeficiency and can impact sperm quality. STDs can affect quantity, quality and motility of sperm. 

Unfortunately, cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation can contribute to male infertility. These treatments can cause sterility, so it is advised that patients undergoing these treatments freeze their sperm before starting treatment.

Hormonal substitutes for men, such as testosterone and other performance enhancing additives, can increase testosterone levels. This can be a cause for the loss of sperm production.

Related Video – Everything You Need to Know about Embryology

Is Your Sperm Healthy?

Having a low sperm count does not necessarily mean you will have poor sperm health and vice versa. If male factor infertility is suspected, fertility specialists at LFC can test your semen for sperm motility and morphology, with recommendations for next steps.

A healthy sperm count is 20 million sperm/mL or greater. Anything less is considered low and can affect fertilisation. Size, shape and motility can also be measured at Laurel Fertility Care to check if the sperm is at its highest levels of fertility.

For some men, sperm cannot be tested through ejaculation. There can be many causes for lack of sperm in ejaculate, including the absence or blockage of the vas deferens, non-reconstructed vasectomy, or azoospermia, a condition where the semen contains no sperm.  In this case, there are procedures to extract sperm directly from the testicles, which can then be used to fertilise eggs, either through intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Common Factors that Contribute to Unhealthy Sperm

As mentioned before, male infertility is rarely discussed. To point you in the right direction to understand male infertility, we have made a list of the common causes of low sperm count, the absence of sperm, and/or poor sperm health:

  • Poor lifestyle choices
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Damaged reproductive organs
  • Previous or current illness such as cancer of the organs near the groin which have been treated with chemotherapy
  • Problems with the pituitary glands that reduce the body’s ability to produce testosterone and sperm

Treating Male Infertility

Reading about the common causes of infertility in males can seem overwhelming without treatment options. Rest assured, there are many successful and effective treatment options available for men that can make fertilisation possible.

The choice of assisted reproduction usually depends on the severity of the male factor infertility. Some cases can be cured with the right nutrients, fertility supplements and lifestyle choices. Other cases require clinical options such as surgery or medical therapy.

Other options include intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF), with or without intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

IUI is used with mild male factor infertility and involves placement of washed motile sperm in the uterus, in closer proximity to the fallopian tubes where fertilisation occurs.

IVF overcomes any obstacles to sperm movement in the female reproductive tract, by allowing fertilisation to occur in vitro, using only a few million motile sperm.

With severe male factor infertility, where only a few motile sperm are present, IVF with ICSI allows for conception with even less sperm, as just one viable sperm is injected into the egg to create an embryo.

Donor Sperm

In situations where infertility is due to the complete absence of sperm, couples have the option of building their families with the use of donor sperm. Screened and quarantined donor sperm can be obtained from sperm banks for use in assisted reproduction, under supervision of a fertility specialist.

Related Article: How to Choose a Sperm Donor and How Cryos Select their Donors 

At Laurel Fertility Care, skilled fertility specialists are available to help couples dealing with male factor infertility, working closely with male reproductive specialists. If you have any questions or want to know more about treatment options, please contact us to arrange an appointment.

Male infertility needs to be a more widespread topic to help those going though male infertility know what treatment options are available to them. If you found this article helpful and would like to know more about male factor infertility and treatments, follow Fertility Help Hub.

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