Male factor infertility is the inability of a male’s sperm to fertilize a woman’s egg. Infertility was previously thought as a woman’s problem. Now, when couples struggle with infertility it is equally important for the male to undergo infertility testing as it is the female. Today, infertility treatments and IVF procedures can correct for male infertility problems.
Pregnancy results from a male gamete (aspermatozoa) released from ejaculation during sexual intercourse interacting with a female gamete (oocyte or immature egg cell). In order to successfully reach the cytoplasm (inner part of the oocyte), the sperm must be mobile, healthy, and an appropriate size and shape. The sperm pierces through several cell and tissue layers before reaching the oocyte, so any sperm abnormality can affect fertility.
Age does not influence a male’s sperm production in the same way it impacts a female’s egg production. While women stop ovulating during menopause, some men continue making large amounts of sperm into their 60s and 70s. Nonetheless, there are a number of factors that influence a man’s sperm production as well as the fertility capabilities of the individual sperm spermatozoa themselves.
There are certain lifestyle choices that affect a man’s healthy sperm. Simple things like tight underwear, saunas and hot tubs affect the health of sperm. Alcohol, drugs, and certain medications are also influential to fertility. A study in October 2010 proved that men who drink significant amounts of soda (1 liter or 34 ounces per day- the equivalent to a medium-sized soft drink at McDonalds) produce less sperm than those who avoid soda.
Male infertility factor symptoms aren't physical, but can be seen within the sperm. Health sperm is determined by volume, count and motility.
Hypospermia is a low semen volume, which is a condition in which men ejaculate less-than-normal quantities of semen. A low semen production means that fewer sperm come in contact with the female egg. Normal semen productions are measured as 1 to 5.6mL for a single ejaculation. High semen volume (hyperspermia) can also lead to infertility because such a high concentration of fluid can dilute the sperm.
Azoospermia is a condition in men where there are no spermatozoa in the semen. There are surgical procedures doctors can perform to correct for some cases of an abnormal semen volume.
A low sperm count, or oligospermia, is the most common reason for a male infertility factor. A low sperm count is when the semen has less-than-normal concentrations of sperm, reducing the likelihood of healthy spermatozoa reaching the female egg Recent studies have shown that overheating of the testicles causes a low sperm count. Simply setting a laptop on one’s lap for a prolonged period of time can reduce sperm count. Smoking and drug use also influence one’s sperm count. A normal sperm count is usually measured as 20 million or more sperm per milliliter of semen.
When sperm has a low motility, it is difficult for the sperm to travel forward and penetrate the female egg. Normal sperm mobility is measured by two thirds of the sperm reaching the egg. Infertility treatments that correct for such male infertility factors (mentioned above) are also suitable to treat low sperm motility.
When couples experience infertility testing, the male undergoes a semen analysis, which closely examines different characteristics of the semen such as the sperm count, volume and motility. Such factors of a male’s semen influence fertility. Even the size and shape of the sperm can pose long-term impacts on a male’s ability to conceive a child.
Testicular sperm aspiration (TESA) is a popular form of sperm retrieval that can correct for male fertility factors like azoospermia. Infertility treatments such as IVF with sperm donation can also help.
For a low sperm count, infertility treatments such as In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), and/or sperm donation are all highly effective solutions.
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.