A couple is considered infertile if they have been unable to get pregnant after one year of frequent unprotected sexual intercourse. Male infertility is used to classify infertility when the female partner is known to be fertile.
Infertility is estimated to affect 8-9% of males and about 15% of couples in Australia.
It’s generally accepted that for those couples who are infertile:
- In about 1 in 5 cases, male infertility alone is the cause
- In about 1 in 3 cases, female infertility is the cause
- In more than 1 in 3 cases, both male and female factors are involved
Common Signs of Infertility in Men
1. Changes in sexual desire
A man’s fertility is also linked with his hormone health. Changes in virility, often governed by hormones, could indicate issues with fertility.
2. Testicle pain or swelling
There are several different conditions that could lead to pain or swelling in the testicles, many of which could contribute to infertility.
3. Problems maintaining erection
A man’s ability to maintain an erection is often linked to his hormone levels. Reduced hormones may result, which could potentially translate into trouble conceiving.
4. Issues with ejaculation
Similarly, an inability to ejaculate is a sign that it might be time to visit a doctor.
5. Small, firm testicles
The testes house a man’s sperm, so testicle health is paramount to male fertility. Small or firm testicles could indicate potential issues that should be explored by a medical practitioner.
Causes of male infertility
These may include:
- Abnormal sperm production or functiondue to undescended testicles, genetic defects, health problems such as diabetes, or infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, mumps or HIV. Enlarged veins in the testes (varicocele) also can affect the quality of sperm.
- Problems with the delivery of sperm due to sexual problems, such as premature ejaculation; certain genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis; structural problems, such as a blockage in the testicle; or damage or injury to the reproductive organs.
- Overexposure to certain environmental factors, such as pesticides and other chemicals, and radiation. Cigarette smoking, alcohol, marijuana, anabolic steroids, and taking medications to treat bacterial infections, high blood pressure and depression also can affect fertility. Frequent exposure to heat, such as in saunas or hot tubs, can raise body temperature and may affect sperm production.
- Damage related to cancer and its treatment, including radiation or chemotherapy. Treatment for cancer can impair sperm production, sometimes severely.