Is it Me or Him? A Closer Look at Male Factor Infertility

Many women who are having difficulty getting pregnant often wonder if it is them or their partner with the problem. Approximately 15% of all couples have difficulty becoming pregnant and roughly 50% of these couples have male infertility issues contributing to their inability to conceive.

This high percentage may seem a little hard to believe, especially by your partner; however, male issues are common and can be a serious obstacle for couples trying to build their family.

Male factor infertility is typically due to low sperm quality or quantity. Medical issues such as:

  • Sexually transmitted disease (STD) or other infections
  • Use of anabolic steroids
  • Cancer treatment including surgery
  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • High blood pressure
  • Use of prescription drugs that are known to affect sperm production and blockages that prevent the release of sperm (either due to injury or from birth) can cause decreased or no sperm production

Other factors known are:

  • Lifestyle or environmental factors that may affect sperm quality include prolonged exposure to heat (ex. hot tubs, whirlpools, job type)
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Lubricants (including petroleum jelly or vaginal creams)
  • Exposure to toxins (pesticides, radioactivity or X-rays)
  • Illegal drug use

In addition to the items listed above there may be other factors that contribute to male factor infertility. The number of normal sperm present, the volume, the quality of sperm movement (do they move forward?), or even if any sperm is there at all. These types of factors can be detected in a laboratory test called a Semen Analysis. This simple test can be ordered by a physician and is often covered by insurance policies.

No one ever wants to receive any type of abnormal test result, but there are options if this is the case for your partner.

If the test indicates there may be a problem, together you will want to decide if you should make an appointment to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility (REI) specialist or a Urologist who specializes in male factor infertility.

These physicians may have options to correct or improve sperm abnormalities. Some of the options available range from simple lifestyle changes to complex surgical procedures. You, your partner and the physician should determine which options are right for you.

In addition to testing your partner, it is important that you receive testing as well to determine if your body may be contributing to the difficulty of creating your family. These tests can be done by either your regular OB/Gyn or an REI.

Do not be discouraged if you receive any test results that may indicate there are problems. It is important to keep in mind that even though sometimes the problem can’t be fixed, there are many treatment options that can help improve your chances of getting pregnant.

Some of the treatment options that may be offered by an REI could be Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) of your partner’s specimen or even In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Both of these treatment types involve the female patient to take some form of medication. Above all, it is important to keep the lines of communication open with your partner.

You should make sure that you are both on the same page when it comes to creating your family and also the emotions that you may have.

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