The birth of a child is the last in a number of several biological steps. The female releases an egg, which is fertilized by a sperm released by the male. Their fusion forms a zygote, which attaches itself to the uterus, where it grows into a fetus. The infant is finally born nine months after it has been conceived.
Infertility is seen as the condition where a couple is unable to conceive a child despite having unprotected sexual contact for more than a year. There may be physical or psychological problems that are causing infertility. The problems may be present in either or both of the partners. 40% of the time the problem is with the male, as per the official data from the National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children's Health.
What is Male Infertility?
Should the problem causing inability to conceive lie with the male partner, it is termed male infertility. More than 7% of males in the sexually active age group of under 45 years of age, were diagnosed with fertility problems in the United States in the year 2002. Of these, 14% were diagnosed with sperm-related problems and 6% with varicocele.
Fertility in males is evaluated by checking sperm count (number), sperm motility (ability to move), and sperm morphology (shape) – these abnormalities result in male infertility.
There may also be nothing wrong with the sperm, but blockages in the sperm ducts that are making it impossible for the couple to conceive.
Factors that Cause Infertility
A number of factors may contribute to male infertility. Some of these are listed here:
- Varicoceles, or enlarged veins in the genital region.
- Infection or inflammation causing issues with sperm production.
- Damage to sperm ducts making transportation of sperm a problem.
- Torsion, where the testicles get twisted around inside the scrotal sac causing swelling and blockage.
- Erectile Dysfunction, where the male is unable to get or maintain an erection.
- Premature Ejaculation, where an erection can’t be sustained for more than thirty seconds.
- Delayed Ejaculation, where ejaculation occurs really late or doesn’t happen at all during sexual intercourse.
- Retrograde Ejaculation, where semen passes back into the bladder instead of out through the penis during orgasm.
- Ejaculatory Incompetence, where the male can’t ejaculate during coitus, but can during masturbation.
- Hormonal imbalance, leading to low levels of sperm production.
- Oligospermia, sperm count is too low to get partner pregnant.
- Asthenospermia, poor sperm quality causing inability to conceive.
- Teraospermia - abnormal sperm shape causing fertility issues.
- Undescended testicles causing sperm production problems.
- Exposure to radiation can diminish sperm count.
- Lifestyle problems like drug abuse, drinking, smoking, and addictions can cause sperm production problems.
- Stress and obesity.
This is an indicative list and does not have all the factors that may contribute to male infertility. Should there be a problem conceiving, consult a health care practitioner.
Preventing Male Infertility
Should there be an actual physical problem such as a congenital condition in which the vas deferens is missing, it is not possible to prevent infertility. However for infertility issues caused by sperm production problems due to addiction, infections and other reversible conditions, treatment will help cure male infertility.
Only lifestyle-related problems that cause male infertility can be prevented by taking better care of the body. The prevention of male fertility problems that are caused by lifestyle issues can be managed by living a healthier life. Below are some suggestions:
Avoid Being Overweight: Excess weight has often been associated with sperm production problems. To prevent this from becoming an issue, maintain a healthy weight as per your body type.
Overcome Additions to Alcohol, Smoking and Drugs: Addictions tend to disrupt the proper functioning of biological processes. Anything in excess can become an addiction and, therefore, one must monitor their intake.
Maintain an Optimum Testicular Temperature: Wearing tight clothes can affect the circulation of blood in the genital region and raise the temperature of the testicles. Higher testicular temperature has been associated with infertility by affecting sperm production.
Avoid Mobile Phone and Laptop Radiation: Electronic gadgets emit low levels of radiation which can affect sperm production. Ensure that you do not sit with the laptop directly on your lap for long periods of time. Also keep your mobile phone in your shirt pocket rather than in the pant pocket or hooked to your belt.
Eat Nutritious Food: A lack of nutrients, zinc and vitamin C in particular, can cause problems in sperm production. Ensure that you eat a healthy and balanced diet and take supplements if the food is not supplying you with proper nutrition.
Exercise to Maintain High Immunity: Infections and inflammations may completely stop the production of healthy sperm. Exercising regularly is a means by which you can ensure a healthy immune system.
Reviewed by Afsaneh Khetrapal BSc (Hons)