What is Male Infertility?
One third of all infertility cases have been linked solely to issues with the male partner. Male infertility is a condition where the male in a relationship affects the child bearing ability of the woman. When couples are not able to conceive even after having unprotected sex over a long period of time, it is important that men get screened for fertility as well.
Causes of Male Infertility
Male fertility may be impaired by several factors. These include:
- Sperm production problems: The quality and quantity of sperm are the key factors to male fertility. Any defects, such as immature sperm or low sperm count (oligospermia), can lead to infertility.
- Varicoceles: This is a condition characterised by swelling of the veins that supply the testicle.
- Backward ejaculation of the sperm
- Blockage of the sperm carrying ducts
- Development of sperm antibodies (auto-immune disorder)
- Hormonal/stress problems
- Infections/tumours of the male reproductive system
- Genetics (chromosomal disorders)
- Sexual problems
- Use of certain medications such as steroids
- Excessive radiation exposure affects the sperm production.
- Work-related causes (For example, laptop use elevates the temperature of the testes, leading to low sperm production.)
- Smoking and alcohol abuse
Diagnosis of Male Infertility
A diagnosis is often made by your doctor based on the following:
- Medical history
- Complete physical examination
- Semen analysis: This is a laboratory test carried out to assess the sperm count and quality. The test sample is obtained by ejaculating into a sterile bottle.
- Transrectal ultrasound of the prostate: It is an investigation carried out to evaluate the prostate gland and detect any obstruction of the ducts that transport the sperm.
- Scrotal ultrasound: This is an imaging test to diagnose abnormalities of the scrotum or testicles.
- Testicular biopsy: A small piece of tissue is removed from the testicle using a sterile needle and sent for evaluation under a microscope to help determine the cause of infertility.
- Anti-sperm antibody tests to trace the antibodies that attack sperm.
Treatment Options for Male Infertility
With the advancements in medical technology, it is now possible to treat this condition. The treatment options include:
- Surgery: Surgery is indicated in cases of varicocele and obstruction of the sperm duct to improve the sperm motion.
- Medications: Antibiotics are prescribed to treat infections of the reproductive system.
- Treatment for sexual problems: Counselling about sex and relationships can help boost fertility levels.
- Hormone replacement therapy: Male hormone replacement therapy may be used to treat hormonal deficiency.
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART): These are revolutionary treatment procedures that can help couples with infertility problems to conceive. Some of them include in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) methods.
- Lifestyle modification: These include changing habits such as smoking and drinking excess alcohol, and using stress reduction techniques.