General Information on Men and Infertility
Males Can Be Infertile As Well
If you are trying to get pregnant and are feeling guilt about not being able to conceive, and if your mate has not been tested yet, please have your mate tested before you place the burden of guilt on your own shoulders.
If your doctor has stated that there should be no reason why you should not be able to conceive, it is time to see how fertile your mate is. To help him adjust to the idea of getting a check-up if he is against it, you could first ask him if he would go for a regular check-up to check for prostate cancer. This is a typical check-up that all males should have, just as women have mammograms to check for breast cancer. If he is open to this idea, then he is more than likely open to getting his sperm count tested to see what his fertility success rate should be. If so, then you have a very loving spouse and it will be much easier for you to get him involved with your conception attempts.
If he still insists that the problem is through no fault of his own, you may have a problem. You should calmly sit down and have a long talk with your mate, and explain to him how important this is to you. Explain that if his sperm count is low, there are others methods that you as a couple can do to increase the chances of conception. Let him know that if he is infertile, then it does not mean that he is less of a man. Inform him that you would have peace of mind, if you could just find out for yourself if he or yourself causes the infertility.
Tell him your fears and explain to him about how much a child would mean to you. That you are open to all suggestions, even to the point of adoption if you are willing and able, and that you just want to cover every base before seeking alternative options.
Explain to him how women who want children, yet who cannot have them, feel inside. Tell him how empty you feel, and share your pain with him. Sometimes men do not understand their mates’ desires, pains and fears. Some men do not understand how important conception is for a woman. Men cannot have babies, so they do not understand what a woman goes through to conceive and have a child.
There are many things that can cause infertility in men, with some of them being correctable. You owe it to yourself and your spouse to find out if your fertility can be improved for possible conception. If the problem lies with your mate, he owes it to you to find out for your own peace of mind.
Your mate should be supportive in your attempts to conceive and should educate himself about fertility, conception and causes for infertility. If your mate is not understanding, and will not attempt to help you find out exactly what is causing your infertility, you may need to seek advice from a professional marriage counselor or family therapist.
Whatever the results, if your doctor has not been able to locate the reason for your infertility, do not feel guilty. It is not your fault. Keep trying, keep yourself healthy and make sure that your mate understands just how important this is to you. If your mate does not understand, please seek marriage help from a professional.
Causes Of Infertility In Men
Studies show that one in every seven couples wishing to conceive is infertile. Earlier, it used to be assumed that the problem was solely due to disorders in the woman’s reproductive system. However, it is now generally recognized in medical circles that 35-40% cases have male contributing factors. This is quite incredible considering an average, healthy male releases around 120 – 600 million sperm each time he ejaculates. Reproduction should be easy for the male……but sometimes, things go a bit awry.
So what is it that causes a male to be infertile?
Male infertility could be on account of congenital disorders or could be acquired at any time during his reproductive years and usually has to do with sperm abnormalities such as low sperm count, insufficient motility and abnormal morphology. A sperm analysis is the best method of finding out if a fertility problem exists. A simple procedure, the analysis requires a sperm sample that will be analyzed for the following factors:
• Volume : Normal ejaculate ranges between 2 – 5 ml. If the sample is more or less, it would indicate that there could be a problem.
• Appearance : Abnormal color would indicate the presence of an infection.
• Sperm Count : Whether the number of sperm per ml meets the norm of 20 million/ml or above. A concentration of less than 20 million/ml would be considered as a low sperm count.
• Motility : The ability of the sperm to swim towards the egg will be observed. Sluggish or inefficient movement will mean that the sperm has low motility.
• Morphology : The size and shape of the sperm plays an important part in fertility. Abnormally shaped sperm are hampered in their ability to swim to the egg and penetrate it. If it is observed that more than 50% of the sperm are not normally shaped, it indicates that fertility is affected.
• Viscosity : Too thick a sample would indicate the presence of infection.
• pH Level : The quality and concentration of sperm could be affected by the pH level of the semen. The normal range is between 7 – 8, and anything outside this range would have an impact on fertility.
Other factors that contribute to male infertility are:
- Impotence or erectile dysfunction which is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. An erection is required in order to ejaculate.
- Ejaculation disorders such as premature ejaculation or retrograde ejaculation (where the ejaculate is forced back into the bladder).
- The failure of the testes to descend into the scrotum. This causes heightened temperatures in the testicles which affects the quality of the sperm.
- Scrotal varicocele, an enlarged vein outside the scrotum that slows down blood flow to the scrotum causing a rise in temperature in the testicles. The increased temperature can adversely affect the production of sperm.
- Blocked tubes that can prevent the ejaculation of semen prohibiting fertilization.
- Medical conditions that include among others, injury or major surgery in the groin area, mumps, diabetes, HIV, thyroid disorders, heart attack and major organ failures. Medical treatments like radiation or medication for heart disease and high blood pressure can also affect fertility.
- Prolonged testicular exposure to high temperatures from hot tubs, saunas, steam baths and even tight clothing that inhibit healthy sperm production.
- Exposure to toxic substances like pesticides, x-rays, electromagnetic or microwave emissions or radioactivity can encourage sperm abnormalities.
- Alcohol and drug abuse as well as smoking can negatively impact male fertility.
- Aging brings about a decline in sperm production as well as sperm quality. This decline commences around the age of 35.
Factors such as stress, insomnia, intense exercise, vitamin C deficiency, insufficient nutrition and even prolonged abstinence can affect male fertility.
While some causes of male infertility are irreversible, the others can be treated by appropriate infertility treatments. If you are concerned about your fertility, connect with your health provider who will recommend the tests you need to take and subsequently appropriate corrective action
Can Male Infertility Be Affected By PCBs
There are, of course, no outward signs that would indicate the fertility or infertility of a man or woman. Generally speaking if after about a year of unprotected sexual intercourse conception hasn’t occurred, thoughts about infertility can develop. The incidence of male and female infertility is roughly the same, in an infertile couple the chances of the male or female being infertile is in the range 30% to 40%. However, studies show that as many as 5%, or one in twenty, of males is infertile.
For a man, concerns about infertility are usually first addressed by having his sperm analyzed. Male fertility is measured by the so called ‘semen profile’. The minimum criteria for a semen profile to be considered fertile is as follows:
~ an ejaculate volume of at least 2 milliliters
~ at least 20,000,000 sperm present per milliliter of ejaculate
~ at least 50% of those sperm being motile
(NB. Motile means that the sperm are moving in a purposeful direction rather than in a circle or being immobile.)
Following those tests medical experts will then test to see how well the sperm can escape from the ejaculate. This is important because the sperm has to be strong enough to penetrate the females cervical mucous and then the outer covering of her ovum. (The strength and ability of the sperm to penetrate an ovum is tested under laboratory conditions on specially prepared hamster eggs.)
Whilst other articles on this web-site discuss general causes, prevention and treatment of male infertility, there is one alarming environmental factor that has and will continue to impact on male fertility for many years to come. That is the occurrence and accumulation of Polychlorinated Biphenyls in the environment.
Since the 1950s there has been a steady fall in the sperm count of males. This fall in men’s sperm count and motility is still continuing to the extent that it is estimated by the end of the 21st century the average male sperm count will actually fall below 20,000,000 per milliliter of ejaculate! This obviously raises questions about how the medical profession will cope with and treat a potentially massive rise in male infertility. One possibility is of course an increase in artificial insemination and IVF (in vitro fertilization) of the ovum.
The most plausible explanation for the fall in men’s sperm counts is an environmental one. In the 1950s when the trend was first noticed scientists made a link between it and chemical pollutants in the environment that ‘mimic’ the female hormone estrogen. These chemicals were pesticides such as DDT, which was in heavy use then. However, with the decline in use of DDT the fall in male sperm count also continued on through the 1960s and1970s. It was during the 1970s that scientists determined that a number of chemical pollutants were responsible for the continuing fall. However, the chemicals causing the most concern were a group of compounds known as PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)
PCBs were first manufactured in the late 1920s. They can be oily liquids or waxy solids. Due to their physical properties being very chemically stable, having a high boiling point and being excellent electrical and heat insulators they were put to a wide range of uses in industry; electrical components, paints, plastics, rubber and hydraulic equipment. Their chemical stability makes them very durable compounds, being not easily broken down or destroyed. If not disposed of securely and correctly PCBs accumulate in the environment, they are then distributed by water and air systems and find their way into our food chains. Despite the fact that since the late 1970s the use of PCBs has been severely restricted and banned in many countries, because of the improper disposal of them in the past they remain a significant environmental threat and their presence in our ecosystems will remain for many decades to come.
PCBs are also known to have an effect on the development of male reproductive organs whilst developing in the womb.
The tolerable level of daily intake for PCBs has been set at 20ng/kg of body weight. Or put another way, an adult weighing 100kg should consume no more than 0.000002g of PCB per day. A miniscule amount and impossible to detect unless the food and or water source are subject to the most stringent tests. Without causing over concern, if drinking water or eating food ‘in the wild’ ensure it is well prepared and as clean as possible. This is especially important when dealing with fish which absorb and accumulate PCBs from water sediments and their food.