- Posted On: April 25, 2018
- Categories: Infertility Causes
- Tags: Flip The Script | Male Infertility | National Infertility Awareness Week | NIAW
By Dr. Thomas Fisher, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist at Oregon Reproductive Medicine.
In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, let’s #FlipTheScript and talk about—men. The impact of infertility is far-reaching, and often times we forget that infertility is something that many men struggle with. So what exactly is male infertility, what causes it, and where do you go from here? You’re asking the right questions—and you’re not alone.
Here are 10 questions you may be asking yourself about male infertility:
Question 1: I don’t hear much about male infertility. Is it uncommon?
When it comes to infertility, often times it’s thought of as a disease that only women struggle with. Realistically—up to 35% of the time—infertility is derived from the male partner. As a result, it’s common that when a couple is having trouble getting pregnant, the initial workup will likely involve an evaluation of both partners.
Question 2: If we’re concerned that our infertility may be related to the male side, how can I get checked out?
The easiest way to evaluate a possible male infertility issue is through a semen analysis. Your sample will be examined to check the concentration, motility, and shape of the sperm. This common test can be performed at many local laboratories or clinics.
Question 3: Can drinking alcohol or tobacco and marijuana use affect my semen analysis?
Both tobacco and marijuana use has been shown to cause alterations in a semen analysis. Besides supporting good healthy habits, cutting down or stopping tobacco or marijuana use can also be beneficial for fertility. When it comes to alcohol, the evidence for moderate consumption is more controversial—however, excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to changes in semen analysis.
Question 4: Do my chances of infertility increase as I get older?
When it comes to fertility, age does play a factor—although it’s different from the age factor in females. Male fertility may begin to decline around age 40, even though men are still capable of fathering a child well into their 70’s or later. Habits that may increase the effects of aging on infertility include smoking, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, and eating processed foods—avoiding these factors may improve your fertility.
Question 5: Can taking testosterone supplements affect our chances of conceiving?
Often times, testosterone supplementation can disrupt a man’s reproductive physiology—which can decrease his ability to produce sperm. If it’s significant enough, infertility can happen.
Question 6: I have been experiencing pain, swelling, or feel a mass around my testicles—could this cause infertility?
There are many causes of male infertility. Pain and/or swelling could be related to dilated blood vessels around the testicles—which can lead to an abnormal semen analysis. A mass in this area should always be evaluated by a healthcare provider, and it could potentially be a cause of infertility.
Question 7: Are there supplements that I can take to increase my sperm quality?
Many males will take antioxidants—such as vitamin C, fish oil, or vitamin B complex—to try and increase their sperm quality. However, there currently isn’t any conclusive evidence that taking supplements will improve your semen sample.
Question 8: How often should we be having intercourse when we are trying to conceive?
A male’s sperm can actually be present in the female reproductive tract for three or more days. Therefore, it’s recommended that intercourse every other day—during the optimal fertile time—is sufficient.
Question 9: I recently have been diagnosed with cancer. My doctor has told me that I will need chemotherapy and/or radiation which may permanently affect my sperm count. I would like to potentially have children in the future—is there anything I can do?
Yes—sperm samples can be collected and frozen for later use if desired. There are many local facilities that will freeze and store your semen sample until you’re ready to use it. The frozen samples can later be used through an intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Question 10: I have been told that I have an abnormal semen analysis. What’s the next step? Is there anything that can be done?
After an abnormal semen analysis, it’s important to follow up with your healthcare provider. Often times, the initial step is to repeat the semen analysis in a few months. If the repeat analysis is abnormal or your healthcare provider deems it fruitful, you may be referred to a specialist for further evaluation.