Understanding Male Infertility

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                                          Understanding Male Infertility

 

Culturally, the burden of fertility—and infertility—falls on women. However, male fertility plays just as big a role in trying to conceive. It is important we talk more about male infertility to ease the amount of pressure placed on women trying to fall pregnant surrounding fertility. This is why we asked Dr Stephen Elgey, fertility specialist here at Sunnybank Obstetrics, Fertility and Gynaecology, a few questions about male infertility.

 

                                                                What are the most common causes of male infertility?


"Often the underlying causes are not clear. However, the most common causes we see are underlying issues medical conditions, exposure to pollutants and smoking and drug use"

What can you do about a low sperm count?


"It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Taking multivitamins and supplements, not smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, regular exercise, reducing exposure to toxins and pollutants and a diet rich in folate and zinc are all beneficial to male fertility. For some men there are problems with the veins in the pelvis, for which surgery can help. Occasionally a biopsy is needed to obtain viable sperm. "

What are some misconceptions about infertility in males?


"Some common misconceptions are: tight underwear causes infertility and infertility problems are caused only by the female. It is often not understood that 1/3 of fertility issues are due to the male, and 1/3 due to the female."

What is the success rate of IVF?


"Success rates of conceiving can be improved by directly injecting sperm into the egg. A woman who is the under age of 35 and undergoes IVF has a 39.6% chance of having a baby, while a woman over age 40 has an 11.5% chance. Most men with fertility issues are able to have a child with IVF. Occasionally a donor may be necessary for severe problems."

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When investigating suspected infertility we test both partners in a couple. Diagnosing male infertility may involve:

  • Physical examination – including medical history

  • Semen analysis – a sample of the man’s semen is investigated in the laboratory and checked for abnormalities and the presence of antibodies

  • Blood tests – to assess hormone levels

  • Testicular biopsy – a fine needle and microscope are used to check the network of tubes within the testicles to see if they contain any sperm

  • Ultrasound scans – to take pictures of the reproductive organs, such as the prostate gland.

Problems with sperm numbers or quality are thought to be caused by genetic factors. Tiny fragments of the male chromosome may be missing in some men with sperm problems. This may cause:

  • Absent sperm (azoospermia) – the semen doesn’t contain any sperm. This may be caused by a blockage of the tubes or testicular failure
  • Low sperm count (oligospermia) – the ejaculate has insufficient sperm to bring about conception
  • Abnormal shape – a healthy sperm is shaped like a streamlined tadpole. Abnormally shaped sperm may have problems penetrating the surface of the woman’s egg
  • Poor motility – a healthy sperm has a lashing tail which helps it to swim through the woman’s reproductive system. Sperm with poor motility may swim feebly or not at all.

If you have any questions about male infertility or would like to know more, give our clinic a call on (07) 3344 1656.

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