The reality is that infertility isn’t just a problem for women. Infertility statistics in men shows one-third to men and one-third are a mixture of both male and female are affected with infertility.
In the United States, 1 in 5 couples will seek help for infertility problems. There are a variety of conditions that affect male fertility, ranging from hormone imbalances to physical problems.
In some cases, even psychology can play a part in male infertility.
What Causes Infertility in Men?
The most common factors in infertility in men are when no sperm cells are produced, or when there are too few sperms available in order for fertilization of the egg to be possible.
In some cases the sperm cells are abnormal and they die before they are able to reach the egg for fertilization. Another cause of male infertility is a condition known as Varicocele.
Up to 40 percent of men who are infertile may have some degree of this condition. A varicocele occurs when the veins in the testicles are too big, causing the testicles to heat up.
Heat can decrease the number of sperm available to fertilize the egg. Heat can also adversely affect the shape of the sperm. In very rare cases of infertility, a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis can cause fertility problems.
Risks That Affect Male Fertility
A man’s overall health and lifestyle also play a role in male fertility.
The following can affect the quality and quantity of male sperm:
- chronic use of alcohol.
- cigarette smoking.
- drugs such as marijuana.
- toxins in the environment, such as lead and pesticides.
- medical drugs.
- chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer.
- health issues, such as kidney disease.
- hormone imbalances.
- use of anabolic steroids.
- excessive exercise.
One or more of the above factors can significantly prevent male sperm from being healthy enough to fertilize the female egg.
Hormone Imbalance and Male Fertility
About 5 percent of infertility statistics in men is related to hormone imbalances.
Normal functioning of the hypothalamus-pituitary endocrine system is necessary for the proper regulation of those hormones needed for normal sperm to be produced.
There are several hormone imbalances that negatively affect sperm production:
- Failure of the pituitary gland to produce adequate LH (luteinizing hormone) needed to stimulate the testes and trigger sperm production.
- Failure of the brain to release GnRH (gonadotrophin-releasing hormone) which is needed to stimulate sperm production.
- Hormone imbalances that affect the balance of the sex hormones.
- Hypothyroidism – Low levels of the thyroid hormone can lead to poor sperm quality. As well, sex drive may be decreased.
- Hyperprolactinemia – Elevated levels of the prolactin hormone are found in up to 30 percent of infertile men. These high levels can decrease sperm production and also cause impotence.
Testing for Male Infertility
Since infertility statistics in men account for up to one-third of couples being unable to get pregnant, it’s important for men to be tested for sperm quality. A sperm analysis can reveal if there are problems with sperm.
If sperm abnormalities are detected, it can save a lot of time and money for couples who no longer have to immediately look for female infertility issues.
However, it’s important to remember that a couple’s inability to conceive may be a combination of both male and female infertility factors.
Age and Sperm Quality
When it comes to fertility in women, age plays a significant role in decreasing the quality of the egg as women get older. In men, age may not have such a direct impact.
Men in their 40s and 50s are still able to have children unless the mobility of their sperm is affected. Even in the case of impaired mobility, IUI treatment will help in fertilization of the egg.
In IUI treatment the male sperm is inserted directly into the uterus so that sperm mobility no longer becomes an issue.
Age does, however, affect sperm quality and older men statistically have more sperm abnormalities than younger men. The infertility statistics for men are not as readily available as statistics for women.
This is because when it comes to fertility issues, it can often be much more difficult to determine if the problem of not being able to get pregnant lies in sperm production or an unknown factor.
Treating Male Infertility
Depending on the factors, there are several different treatments available for male infertility.
This includes treating hormonal imbalances using hormone drug therapy, surgery to correct varicocele, and surgery to correct blocked sperm ducts.
When male infertility is treated, up to 30 percent of couples go on to conceive naturally. For the remaining 70 percent, other infertility treatments may have to be considered if the couple is still anxious to have a baby.
This includes IVF and IUI using donor sperm if needed.