What is male infertility and what causes it?

male infertility

Reproduction is a very common urge of married couples. Although making a baby may become difficult as one of the partners suffers from infertility. This may be a man’s problem as well as a woman’s one.

Man’s ability to have children relies mostly on quality of his sperm. If there’s not enough sperm in semen or there are flaws in sperm, it will be impossible to make a woman pregnant – the sperm either won’t survive and penetrate the egg or just won’t be able to transform into zygote.

What should happen in healthy conditions?

The male body is able to produce reproductive cells called sperm. At the end of normal sexual intercourse without protection ejaculation transports a large amount of these cells into female body.

Sperm is produced, stored and destroyed if necessary in the testicles. This process is controlled by sex hormone – testosterone – that is produces by special glands in male reproductive system. At a right time, sperm leave the testicles through slim tubes.

When the ejaculation is happening, the sperm gets into other tubes that are called the vas deferens. There sperm mixes with a liquid from the prostate and exits trough the penis. If the sperm is fine, it was evacuated right into the vagina and the woman is healthy, the reproductive cells travel to fallopian tubes, where the eggs can be found. If the sperm meets female cells, the conception happens.

Therefore, both male and female reproductive systems and their hormone levels must be normal for the fertilization to happen.  

Prevalence of male infertility

This problem is common all over the world. It is difficult to calculate how common male infertility is: according to different studies, 8% (WHO.int) to 40% (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) cases of inability to have children are caused by male problems. Another big percentage is due to female factors; both partners rarely are unable to conceive.

By estimation, 5% of all men suffer from some sort of fertility problem. Only 1% doesn’t produce sperm at all.

Symptoms of male infertility

It is not possible to detect this problem without medical tests. Usually everything seems normal: sex is fine, there’s no problem with erection and ejaculation happens just as it should. Moreover, the quantity of sperm seems normal – you can’t really tell that your ejaculate lacks a couple million cells without special equipment.

Causes of male infertility

The two major reasons of this problem are anomalies in sperm production and sperm transport. Special tests help to identify what problem is the reason of infertility in this or that case.

Researches show that almost 2/3 of cases are caused by problems with sperm production. The numbers of produced sperm may be too low or its quality is too low – something is wrong with the reproductive cells structure.

20% of men with infertility suffer from bad sperm transport (according to andrologyaustralia.org). This number includes those people who had vasectomy made, but then changed their minds. The tubes that are the way for sperm from the testicles to the penis can be blocked – this may lead to a complete absence of semen in man’s ejaculate.

There are other, less common reasons of infertility, such as:

  • sexual problems that lead to semen’s inability to make its way to the vagina where conception happens – 1% of infertile couples;
  • lack of male sex hormones that are produced in glands in the testicles – 1% of infertile men;
  • the man’s immune system kills all of the semen – 1 in 16 cases.

The last case is very rare, because usually semen antibodies don’t affect fertility, although every man has them in his blood and semen.

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