There are seldom any warning signs that you’re infertile. Most men only find out there’s a problem when their partner doesn’t get pregnant, a difficult challenge that faces 15% of all couples who try to have a baby.
Men and women who come to us at Columbia Fertility Associates are surprised to learn that both partners have about the same chance of contributing to their infertility.
When the problem is male factor infertility, you can depend on the our highly experienced team to find a solution and help you overcome infertility.
Frequency of infertility in men
The overall rate of male infertility is estimated to be around 5-6% in America. In about half of all infertile couples, a problem is found in the man, but the male partner is solely responsible for infertility in about 20-30% of those cases. In the remaining cases, both partners have an underlying issue that contributes to their inability to get pregnant.
Common causes of male infertility
There are many possible causes of male infertility, including:
- Sperm disorders
- Blocked ejaculatory duct
- Blocked or infected tubules in the testicles
- Varicocele (varicose veins around the testicles)
- Retrograde ejaculation
- Hormonal imbalance
- Injured testicles
Sperm disorders fall into three broad categories: low sperm production, poor motility (can’t move properly), and abnormal sperm.
A low sperm count could be due to a varicocele, an autoimmune disease, a hormone deficiency, or infections such as prostatitis or epididymitis. Nutritional deficiencies, excessive heat exposure, drinking too much alcohol, and some medications also influence the number of sperm, as well as their motility.
Abnormal sperm refers to sperm that develop improperly. As a result, they have a large, small, or tapered head. They could also have a misshapen tail. These structural problems interfere with the sperm’s ability to penetrate an egg.
Your sperm are highly vulnerable to inflammation and oxidative stress, which is damage due to free radicals. Oxidative stress can lead to a low sperm count and affect motility. Environmental toxins, unhealthy habits such as drinking too much alcohol, and health conditions are a few of the top causes of oxidative stress.
Treatments for male infertility
Treatment is always customized to meet your medical needs. We perform a thorough medical evaluation, including a physical exam, blood tests, a semen analysis, and possibly additional specialized testing if needed to determine the cause of your infertility.
Depending on the results of your tests, we may recommend taking antioxidant or nutritional supplements. Some men improve their fertility by addressing problems like excess weight and smoking because they influence the number and quality of your sperm.
If you have an infection or hormone imbalance, your first line of treatment includes medications to correct these problems. We often successfully perform surgery when the underlying problem is a blocked tube or varicocele.
But when your infertility can’t be corrected with medical or surgical intervention, we offer several types assisted reproductive technology.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) for male infertility
Like other types of treatments, the best type of ART depends on the cause of your infertility. These are a few possible options:
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
IVF begins by giving your partner medication to stimulate egg maturation. When the eggs are mature, they’re retrieved and fertilized in the lab with your sperm. Several days later, we implant the fertilized egg back in your partner’s uterus.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
ICSI is done together with IVF. We recommend ICSI when you have a low sperm count, poor sperm motility, or a high amount of abnormal sperm. It’s also a good procedure for men who have an irreparable blockage that prevents sperm from reaching semen.
During ICSI, we retrieve sperm directly from the epididymis, vas deferens, or testicle. After examining the sperm, we identify the healthiest ones, then inject a single sperm directly into your partner’s egg in the lab.
Intrauterine insemination involves giving your partner medication to make eggs mature. With careful monitoring, we can determine when an egg will be released into the fallopian tube.
When your partner ovulates, we take your sperm sample and carefully prepare it by separating unhealthy sperm from those with the best shape and motility. Then we insert the healthy sperm into your partner’s uterus near the opening of the fallopian tube.
Our team has years of experience helping men facing infertility. If you have questions or need help, call or book an appointment online.