Medical Factors affecting Male Fertility
Fertility and birth rates have been dropping worldwide since the 70s. This worrying trend has seen societies upended as the older population continues to grow in size, creating a burden for the smaller amount of children being born. Coupled with falling testosterone levels as well and there is clearly a major deficit in our society which is threatening to push some countries into negative population growth.
Negative population growth occurs when for every couple having children, over their lifetime they produce on average under two children. Put this way the maths is simple. If you have 50 couples, or 100 people, then each couple will need to have two children to keep the population at 100 once all the parents die. If each couple has an only child then after one generation the population will have halved to only 50.
When these parents then enter old age their will be three people in total (including the grown up child) relying on the income of one. As you can probably guess this would cripple the economy as everyone’s daily expenses would go through the roof. Male infertility therefore is more than just a personal issue. As a number of factors influence and degrade male fertility the world suffers in tandem.
How Bad Is The Problem?
When it comes to fertility it takes two to tango. A man can be as fertile as he likes but if his partner is not producing eggs or not able to host an embryo then their collective fertility is zero. Up to 15% of couples find themselves to be infertile, which by definition means they have been trying to conceive for over year, having sex multiple times a week. When looking closer at these cases we find that male infertility is the culprit a third of the time.
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Male infertility is not just simply an issue with sperm count. Your sperm can be made but are not able to swim properly, they may be blocked as they try to exit your body amongst a host of other reasons. The way most men find out they have an issue is after a fairly long time of trying for a baby. Most of the time there are no other symptoms to be found but we have included a list below for completeness. Bear in mind that having one of these symptoms could mean that something else medical is going on, it needs to be investigated fully by a clinician before jumping to any conclusions!
- Multiple chest infection per year
- Loss of the ability to smell
- Gynecomastia, otherwise known as male breast development or ‘man boobs’
- Body changes that imply a chromosomal abnormality
- Loss of body hair
- Reduced sexual function
- Reduced sexual desire
The Doctor Will See You Now
Investigation for any of the above may lead the doctor to believe that you have an issue with either your testosterone or your fertility. If they think you are infertile rather than your partner one of the first diagnostic tests they will want to do is a sperm count and motility review. This is much easier than testing the fertility of a woman which is much more expensive and time consuming.
It will be expected that your sperm count should be no less than 15 million per milliliter of semen or around 39 million per ejaculate. If you do find the level inferior to this then you have just uncovered the root cause of your problem.
The Stages of Failure
There are a number of different levels that sperm have to go through to successfully impregnate a woman. As discussed you need to produce enough sperm. Even if this is achieved the sperm then have to be moving in a healthy way to be able to swim all way to the cervix and the egg beyond.
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Once healthy and mobile sperm are viable within the testes they have to travel to the testes. They do this via the tubes that flow past your prostate and end at the tip of your penis. These are the stages of healthy flow and production.
Obstructive Medical Conditions
Medical conditions can affect any stage of this process and harm your fertility level.
- Surgery - surgery in your genital area can causes strictures and scars alongside disrupting blood flow and normal functioning. Further surgery can be carried out to repair these issues and extract sperm directly from the testes if need be.
- Genetics - bad chromosomes don’t just have to directly affect your testicles and sperm. Conditions like cystic fibrosis can clog up the tubules used to transport sperm and stop them from ever reaching your partner’s vagina.
- Autoimmune disorders - there are too many to mention but some autoimmune conditions specifically attack sperm as they are being made. If you have a condition like this you need specialist treatment to help counteract the antibodies.