Investigating Male Infertility

Both men and women can struggle with infertility. Learn more about the warning signs of male infertility and when it may be time to see your physician.

Physicians define infertility in men and women as being unable to conceive within one year of trying to do so, according to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). More than a third of cases in which couples have difficulty conceiving are due to male infertility, according to the Urology Care Foundation.

Probable Suspects

Male infertility can stem from a variety of sources. The Urology Care Foundation notes that most fertility-related problems are associated with a man’s ability to create or deliver sperm. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, common reasons behind infertility include:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Low sperm count
  • Motility difficulties, meaning sperm that doesn’t move normally
  • Obstructions that block sperm
  • Varicoceles, enlarged veins within the scrotum that increase the temperature of sperm and affect sperm production

In roughly 50% of cases, physicians aren’t quite sure what causes male infertility, according to the NICHD. To determine if male infertility is interfering with a couple’s ability to conceive, physicians may perform an evaluation and diagnostic tests, such as tests that measure hormone levels and sperm count.

Depending on the responsible contributor, physicians may address infertility with medications to treat hormonal imbalances or erectile dysfunction, in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technologies, or surgery to correct problems like varicoceles. If you and your partner have been trying to conceive for six months to one year without success, talk with your physician to see if an infertility evaluation may be right for you.

When Lifestyle and Medication Are to Blame

The foods you eat, the amount of exercise you get every day, whether you smoke or drink alcohol, and your weight can affect every aspect of your health—including your fertility.

Men who smoke or drink more than moderate amounts of alcohol are more likely to struggle with infertility. Obesity can also hamper efforts—a Human Reproduction-published study, for example, found that it can take men and women who are obese up to 55 to 59 percent longer to conceive. In addition, taking certain medications, including those used to manage arthritis pain and high blood pressure, may also contribute to infertility.


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