Understanding the causes of male infertility and finding ways to help couples conceive
It takes two for a baby: the role of male fertility
As the saying goes, it takes two to tango, and nowhere is that more relevant than when it comes to having a baby. When couples struggle to conceive, the focus frequently turns to the woman, but male fertility is also an issue and is in fact the cause of 30-50% of infertility cases (Ramalingam M. et al, Male Fertility and Infertility, Obstetrics, Gynaecology & Reproductive, November 2014).
Sadly, male fertility is often regarded as a taboo subject, but it shouldn’t be. Male fertility issues can be caused by any number of factors and can affect men of all ages, so being aware of these and being ready to have an open conversation about how to address these gives couples the best chance of getting pregnant.
Breaking down the taboos around male fertility
The causes of male infertility can be functional, such as impotence, problems with ejaculating, testicular issues from injury or infection, problems following prostate surgery, as well as some medical conditions such as diabetes. Healthy sperm is important for conception. Factors such as sperm count, sperm motility – which is about how well the sperm swims to reach the egg – and sperm morphology – the size and shape of your sperm -- all need to be looked into by your fertility specialist. DNA fragmentation is another issue that can affect male fertility. That’s when the genetic material in the sperm DNA has become damaged. Where this happens, the odds of a successful pregnancy are significantly lower.
Sperm health and ways to improve the chances of pregnancy
It’s not always about intervention. For example, men can improve their sperm health by maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding tobacco and recreational drugs and limiting the intake of alcohol, eating well, and making sure the groin doesn’t get too warm – in other words, stay away from spas, saunas and hot baths. A healthy sex life also enhances sperm health since regular ejaculation actually improves sperm quality. That should be good news for couples eager to start a family.
If your male infertility is caused by a vasectomy, then a vasectomy reversal may be the recommended option. If your fertility obstacle is a low sperm count then the treatment option may be a Microsurgical Testicular Sperm Extraction (Micro-TESE). Even if you have no sperm in the ejaculate, small amounts of sperm cells may be extracted from the testicle.
Finding solutions to male fertility problems
As your fertility specialist, I will look at the test results of your semen analysis. From there, I can help you decide the best approach to improve the odds of getting pregnant. Among the approaches we can discuss are IVF, where your sperm and your partner’s harvested eggs will be fertilised in a lab, as well as Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), which is where we’ll isolate a sperm and inject it directly into the egg.
When male fertility is identified as an issue, the journey to a successful pregnancy begins with an open conversation with your fertility expert. I’ve worked with thousands of couples who struggle to fall pregnant and my experienced team and I can support you on the journey towards conception. If you have any questions in regards to male fertility, feel free to contact the clinic and we will be happy to help you.