Male infertility? This is usually the last thing that comes to mind when a couple are trying to conceive and cannot.
Greg is feeling impatient. He’s beginning to think something is wrong with Lucy that she hasn’t gotten pregnant yet. They stopped using birth control two years ago, surely it should have happened by now.
He thought back to their marriage four years ago, and their dreams of the beautiful children they would have some day. Getting pregnant should not be this difficult.
When Lucy went in for her annual gynecological exam she discussed wanting to be pregnant with her doctor. She was surprised to find out that the problem may not be hers, but could be Greg’s.
When she came home to discuss it with him he was also surprised. He feels uncomfortable going to the doctor about this, and is wondering what things could be wrong with him. What are the causes of male infertility?
Couples often assume if they cannot conceive that the problem is hers. In reality half of the time it is due to the man.
What causes male infertility?
- Sperm defects
- Undescended testicle
- Retrograde ejaculation
- Genetic abnormalities
- Sperm antibodies
- Hormone deficiencies
- Illnesses or diseases
- Excessive heat exposure
Sperm defects are the most common cause of male infertility. The shape, movement and concentration of sperm can all cause infertility. Low sperm count is common.
Varicocele is an enlargement of veins that drain blood from the testicle back to the heart. This condition is present in 15% of the male population and 40% of infertile men. It is associated with abnormal sperm.
Undescended testicle is know as cryptoorchidism. It is the absence of one or both testes from the scrotum. It is often present at birth, and should be addressed. When the testicle has not properly descended into the scrotum the temperature is too warm for normal sperm production.
Obstructions may be caused by scarring of the structures that carry the sperm, most commonly from trauma, surgery or infections.
Retrograde ejaculation is where semen is ejaculated into the bladder rather than out through the urethra because the bladder sphincter does not close during ejaculation. This condition may be treated with medications or surgical reconstruction of the bladder.
Genetic abnormalities include conditions such as Klinefelter’s Syndrome. This is where each cell in the human body has an additional X chromosome. Physical symptoms include peanut-sized testicles and enlarged breasts. If this condition is treated in its early stages, sperm production may improve.
Sperm antibodies is where your own body is making antibodies against your sperm. They are most common after a vasectomy, and complicate successful reversal of this procedure.
Hormone deficiencies can cause male infertility. The brain may fail to release the proper hormones to stimulate testosterone, men may have too much estrogen, or low thyroid hormone levels. Only a small percentage of male infertility is caused by hormone problems.
Illnesses or diseases can cause male infertility. Illnesses include mumps, tuberculosis, brucellosis, typhoid, influenza, smallpox, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. Diseases include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia.
Toxins include cigarettes, alcohol, recreational drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. Medications can also be toxic to sperm production. Examples are antibiotics, blood pressure medications, steroids, statins, antidepressants, and Propecia (used for hair loss). Environmental toxins include lubricants, pesticides, lead, paint, radiation, radioactive substances, mercury, benzene, boron, and heavy metals and many common personal care and cleaning products.
Diet must include adequate nutrient dense calories, especially fat soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E and K2), vitamin C and zinc. Certain foods contain these vitamins abundantly and are particularly helpful for male infertility. They include grassland meats, unpasteurized dairy products, egg yolks, shellfish and liver.
Exercise, if done to excess, can cause infertility.
Excessive heat exposure may include tight underwear or pants, hot tubs, and saunas, as well as some of the conditions discussed above.
Remember, it takes two to make a baby. And both must be healthy to help increase your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.
To Your Vibrant Health!
Veronica Tilden, DO