Couples who are undergoing testing for infertility problems will be checked out for a variety of different factors. One of the leading causes of infertility problems is hormone imbalances. One important male hormone that is needed for proper sexual functioning is testosterone. Testosterone deficiencies in men can be the sign of a condition known as hypogonadism.
A lack of this hormone can affect not only how fertile you are but can also affect how you perform sexually.
Hypogonadism is one of the main causes of fertility problems in men. Studies show that up to 13 million men in the United States alone have this condition.
Precise numbers are not known since less than 10 percent of men who are affected with hypogonadism will ever seek treatment. In hypogonadism, there is a lack of a hormone called gonadotropin.
When this hormone isn’t produced in sufficient amounts it is often because there has been some damage or disease to the testicles, hypothalamus, or pituitary gland.
When men are lacking in gonadotropins they’ll have insufficient levels of the testosterone hormone.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone Levels
Males who are in puberty who have a testosterone deficiency will have a variety of different symptoms that affect their development and growth.
This includes a penis and testicles that are not developed as normal, as well as a high voice and little muscle mass. For men who develop hypogonadism in adulthood, their physical appearance may undergo some changes.
For instance, their reproductive system may stop working correctly and this can cause problems with infertility.
Some of the symptoms of low testosterone levels in adult men include:
- An increase in the amount of body fat.
- Significant loss in muscle mass.
- Failure to grow body and facial hair.
- The enlargement of male breasts.
- Shrinking of the testicles.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Lack of energy.
- A feeling of general unwellness.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Symptoms of female menopause such as hot flashes and mood swings.
Blood tests are taken to determine if testosterone levels are normal. Normal levels range from 300 to 1,000 ng/dL although this range will vary from one lab to the next.
For a correct diagnosis, more than one blood test will have to be taken for accuracy.
Causes of Hypogonadism Leading to Infertility
There are two different types of hypogonadism: primary and secondary. With primary hypogonadism, it’s the abnormal functioning of the testicles that causes testosterone deficiency.
Some of the causes of primary hypogonadism include:
- Radiation or chemotherapy treatment.
- Testicles that have not descended.
- Any injury that causes damage to the testicles.
- High levels of iron in the blood.
- Klinefelter syndrome where men are born with an additional “X” chromosome and will have impaired testicular development.
In men who are diagnosed with secondary hypogonadism, there is a problem with hormones that are secreted from the pituitary glands. This is due to a problem in either the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus.
Without these pituitary hormones, the testicles aren’t able to function normally. Causes of secondary hypogonadism are due to certain inflammatory diseases or pituitary abnormalities.
Why Testosterone is needed for Normal Fertility
Testosterone is typically considered to be a male hormone but it is also found in small amounts in women.
Testosterone is produced in the testicles and is necessary for the development and growth of the sex and reproductive system in men.
This hormone is what causes men to have deeper voices than women and is also responsible for boosting energy levels and maintaining a healthy sex drive.
As men age, their levels of testosterone start to decline and lead to a decreased sex drive.
Low testosterone levels in younger men are not normal and can bring about unwelcome physical changes including a decrease in fertility.
One of the most common reasons for the drop in testosterone levels is hypogonadism.
Treating Hypogonadism and Your Fertility
For men who have hypogonadism, the big question is will they be able to impregnate their partner. Some types of hypogonadism can be treated with TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) and PRT (pituitary hormone therapy).
TRT can restore a man’s sexual function as well as increase energy and sex drive. Testosterone injections are both effective and safe to use. Every two weeks you’ll be given an injection.
There is also a patch that is available for TRT. Also known as Androderm; the patch is placed on your body at night, rotating between different body areas such as the back, thighs, or upper arm.
Testosterone gels are also a choice and may cause fewer skin irritations. If it’s a pituitary problem PRT can help to restore fertility and trigger an increase in sperm production.
Men for whom fertility is a big issue will want to undergo TRT and PRT to increase their chances of conception. For men who are not successfully treated by hormone therapy, their fertility may never be fully restored.
In these cases, ART (assisted reproductive technology) may be able to provide some options.