Understanding Male Fertility
Male fertility is closely related to a man’s ability to produce or deliver sperm to fertilize a fertile woman’s egg. Men’s role in the TTC journey is crucial and it is fundamental to be recognised and appreciated. Having twenty percent of TTC couples dealing with male fertility challenges, while another twenty percent have challenges for both men and women — male infertility is more common than you think.
Fortunately, there are specific ways men can be proactive about their efforts to become a father. We share some tips that you (and your partner) should know about male fertility and how these help your TTC journey.
Causes of Male Fertility
Improving ones’ health can improve a man’s fertility and eventually his ability to cause a pregnancy. This is not only beneficial to himself but also the future health of his child. There are a number of things that can cause male infertility, but here are the most common ones and risk factors:
Major risk factors for male infertility include smoking (including passive smoking!), stress, practising an unhealthy diet, being overweight and lacking physical exercise, drinking alcohol, and doing illegal drugs.
These lifestyle choices can lower their sex drive, produce low quality semen, decrease the level of testosterone, reduce the quantity and quality of sperms, cause male sexual impotence and decrease sperm mobility. In some cases, certain prescription medications may also impact a man’s sperm count and sperm mobility.
Long-term illnesses such as kidney failure or certain childhood illnesses, such as mumps may also affect the function of the male reproductive system. Some men may also experience a blockage that prevents sperm from traveling through their reproductive system and leaving their body during intercourse. This hinders the sperm from reaching the egg to complete the fertilization process. This may be caused by several factors, including birth defects, injury or even an illness.
Determining Male Infertility
There are several different medical tests that can be used to determine the source of male infertility, that generally start with these two-primary testing:
1. Medical History and Physical Exam
The doctor will conduct an in-depth examination, that includes investigating the man’s medical history, what medications he’s on, what health conditions he has experienced throughout his life and any lifestyle factors that might be impacting his ability to conceive.
Questions about the man’s sex life, including questions about his ability to get and maintain an erection will also be asked. The doctor will later examine him to look for any obvious physical issues that might be present. Though it might be uncomfortable, this is an important step towards ruling out certain conditions and shedding light on what’s preventing him and his partner from conceiving.
2. Semen Analysis
The semen analysis is considered among the easiest fertility test in order to study the genetic makeup of the semen and determine whether sperm is making its way into the man’s semen. He would be advised to be abstinence (control himself from ejaculation) for at least about 3 to 5 days prior to the test.
The semen analysis helps to identify the source of male infertility by giving 4 important information:
i. Sperm concentration or the number of sperms the man is producing
ii. Sperm motility or the number of life sperms the man is producing
iii. Sperm forward progression or the number of life sperms that can move forward. The ability of the sperms to swim forward is vital to ensure that the sperm can meet the female egg and cause fertilization.
iv. Sperm morphology or the number of sperms with normal head, neck and tail that the man is producing.
Even if your male partner’s fertility might be hindering you from conceiving, it is important for both of you be tested. Most of the reported infertility cases can be attributed to infertility issues in both partners. This shows that there might be more than one reason you’re not conceiving yet. Diagnosis for both partners opens the door to new options that you might not have considered before. Thus, be your own advocate and start advocating for your family now, even before conception.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many ways. Some males are infertile due to lifestyle choices; smoking, drinking, unhealthy diet, obesity etc., while some are due to pre-existing health conditions.