ProcreaWinnipeg, Manitoba
Procrea

Causes of Male Infertility

Infertility is not a woman's problem. Male factor infertility is now known to prevent about 40% of infertile couples from conceiving. Commonly, male infertility is related to the quality and/or quantity of sperm. Potential causes of male factor infertility are:

Age
Blockage
Cancer
Hormonal Abnormalities
Infection
Physical Abnormalities
Sperm issues

Age

Though it is not as big an issue for men as it is for women, more studies are showing that age can be a factor in male infertility. As you age you may experience decreased testicular function, hormone levels or sperm production.

Blockage

Blockage is when the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the prostate are obstructed or missing. A blockage can result in a low or no sperm count and/or low semen volume. It can even prevent sperm from being ejaculated. Up to 5% of infertile men are affected by blockage.

Congenital Bilateral Absense of the Vas Deferens is a common cause of obstructive azoospermia (no sperm). This is associated with Cystic Fibrosis and the Cystic Fibrosis gene of which there is an increased incidence of this condition here in Manitoba.

Cancer

Sterility is a side effect of many cancer-fighting drugs while chemotherapy and radiation can damage and destroy cells in the reproductive system. Testicular cancer can lead to removing the testicles and therefore cause infertility.

Hormonal Abnormalities

For the body to produce healthy sperm, there must be just the right balance of testosterone and gonadotropin. Abnormal hormone levels create a dysfunction in the interaction between the hypothalamus, pituitary and testicles that can affect sperm production. Such is the case for up to 3% of infertile men.

Diabetes, a thyroid condition or prolactin problems are other hormonal issues that can also result in infertility.

Infection

Untreated infections can adversely affect sperm production or cause structural damage. Sexually transmitted infections (STI's) are the most common causes.

Physical Abnormalities

  • Physical abnormalities within the reproductive system can prevent the production of healthy sperm. Common abnormalities include:
  • Retrograde ejaculation - when semen is ejaculated into the bladder instead of through the penis. This can be the result of diabetes, removal of the prostate or spinal cord injuries.
  • Undescended testes (cryptorchidism) - if the testes don't descend into the scrotum, they maintain a higher temperature, which reduces sperm production. Often associated with abnormal testes.
  • Varicocele - the result of varicose veins in the testicle. Like undescended testes, it increases the temperature in the testes interfering with the production of sperm.
  • Erectile Dysfunction - If the male partner cannot sustain an erection penetration and pregnancy are not possible. The cause of erectile Dysfunction can be physical or emotional.

Sperm Issues

Male infertility is often related to the quality and/or quantity of sperm. Fertile men normally produce a minimum of 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen ejaculate. Any less is considered impaired fertility or low sperm count. Non-production of sperm (azoospermia) is the result of testicular failure or when there is a complete lack of sperm. If sperm are incapable of traveling through the cervix to the Fallopian tube, they are considered to have poor motility. Finally, poor morphology or shape can inhibit sperm from penetrating an egg.

Procrea

« Infertility can stem from an obstruction in the genital tract or from a lesion, or it may be due to low sperm count, poor sperm motility or abnormal shape. »