Male Infertility: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
Conceiving a child is a dream for couples who are trying to have a child to love as well as raise together. For some couples, the process of having a baby can be challenging with many bumps on the road. Infertility is one of the psychological stressors that can make the process lengthier and is defined as the inability to conceive a child after trying for a year or more.
There has been a running myth that a couple’s infertility is solely attributed to the female but for pregnancy to happen but In fact, male infertility is the second biggest cause right after a woman’s age, a man’s sperm is required to fertilize an egg while his partner has to release an egg which will later be implanted in the womb if fertilization occurs. Therefore, both female and male counterparts have roles to play when it comes to conceiving a child.
According to the Fertility Society of Australia, it is estimated that one in six couples have difficulties getting pregnant and out of that percentage, one-third of the cases are caused by male reproductive issues, another one-third is attributed to female reproductive problems and the last one-third by both male and female reproductive health problems as well as unknown factors.
In this article, we will focus on the symptoms, signs, causes of male infertility to assist couples in recognizing the issues that surround male reproductive health.
Infertility in men may be subtle and challenging to recognize because in most cases, there lack obvious signs of infertility. For instance, most men may not realize they have difficulty having a child because they have healthy sexual libido, sexual activity, erection, ejaculation and normal-looking semen to the naked eye.
Read on for a list of what causes male infertility, how common is male infertility & symptoms followed by signs of male infertility which may be difficult to catch and may apply to couples who are having difficulty trying to get pregnant.
Diagnosis of Male Infertility
There are two main checks performed to investigate male infertility,
- Semen analysis
- General physical examination and medical history
A semen analysis is the first and most important male infertility test, As it can accurately measure the number of sperm, sperms ability to move (motility), shape and size (morphology) and the volume and consistency of the semen sample.
General physical examination and medical history which includes questions about any inherited conditions and also ask about your sexual habits and about your sexual development. The check-up may include examining your genitals to make sure there are no lumps or issues that may cause male infertility.
A semen analysis is easy to request via your GP or specialist, The cost of the semen analysis is $100 out of pocket after the Medicare rebate. Because a semen analysis is less invasive than other treatments we recommend getting an analysis done as soon as you start trying to conceive.
Male infertility Symptoms & Signs
- Changes to the rate and appearance of hair growth
- Lack of sexual libido or desire
- Pain, lump or swelling in the testicle area
- Loss of smell
- Small, firm testicles which may appear shrivelled up
- Physical symptoms of chromosomal disorders
- The alteration from the normal sexual function such as erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation
Signs of Potential Infertility in Men
1. Dry Orgasms
According to the World Health Organisation, the healthy amount of semen per ejaculation should be at least 1.5ml. If you have scanty or no semen after ejaculation, you may be experiencing dry orgasms. Although dry orgasms may not signify any serious medical issue and may resolve on their own, a persistent case of having low semen volume may directly contribute to male infertility.
2. Changes to the colour and texture of semen
The colour and texture of semen can hint men on valuable information on their state of reproductive health and if male infertility is an issue. Normally, semen may appear in a cloudy-white or grey colour with a sticky, gelatinous texture. Other common variants of semen colour include yellow which can occur with infrequent ejaculation. Pathological change in urine or semen colour which is related to male reproductive health includes cloudy urine after an orgasm which could be a sign of retrograde ejaculation where semen enters the bladder instead of exiting the penis after orgasm.
Aside from that semen may take on a more yellowish hue when men develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes) as part of a manifestation of another physical ailment. Yellowish semen may also be a consequence of a higher intake of yellow food colouring usually found in processed foods. A high number of white blood cells in the semen also called leukocytospermia / pyospermia may also cause the semen to appear yellow while at the same time, reducing the quality of the sperm. In more common cases, semen appears yellow due to the staining from urine since they both travel through similar passages, from the urethra to the tip of the penis.
Men should also be cautious of the presence of brown, pink or red hues in the semen as this can indicate the presence of blood in the semen. The brownish discolouration may arise from stale blood, while pink or red discolouration is usually attributed to fresh blood. Bloody semen can be a symptom of medical conditions including prostate infections or in more extreme cases, a tumour within the prostate, testicles and urethra which can lead to male infertility.
3. Smell of Semen
Many people may not be aware that the semen acquires a bleach-like or chlorine-like smell due to the alkalinity of the semen. Semen needs to be slightly basic or alkaline to adapt to the acidic environment of the vagina.
The presence of foul-smelling semen may indicate the presence of medical conditions that should be attended to such as a urinary tract infection or a sexually transmitted infection. However, men should be aware that the change in smell in semen can be caused by a change in diet and caffeine or alcohol intake.
Male infertility causes
According to HealthyMale Australia, male infertility is usually caused by problems that affect sperm production or sperm transport. Out of the cases of male infertility, about two-thirds of infertile men have a sperm production problem. In the following section, further causes of male infertility are discussed and further elaborated.
1. Low sperm count
According to the World Health Organization, a sperm count is considered low if less than 15 million sperms are present per ejaculate. In some men, there is no sperm presence detected in the semen, a medical phenomenon also known as azoospermia.
There are various causes of low sperm count such as prolonged heat exposure to the testicular region. Men who are trying to conceive are generally advised to avoid long spas, saunas and hot baths. A medical condition called varicocele (swelling of veins above the testis) can also affect sperm production by reducing sperm quality. For a more thorough evaluation, men with infertility should see a health expert evaluate their contributor to male infertility.
2. Low sperm motility
The most ideal form of sperm movement is a projectile, fast movement in a straight line. However, not all sperm in an ejaculate of a healthy man possesses such movement. Infertility may rise if a man has an abnormally large percentage of sperm of low motility in their ejaculate. Many causes can lead to low sperm motility including exposure to prolonged heat, hormone disturbances and even some medications as well as treatments. A complete sperm investigation is a reliable test to examine the degree of sperm motility to rule out the cause of male infertility.
2. Hormone Imbalances
About one in 100 infertile men experiences infertility due to low levels of hormones produced in the pituitary gland which signals the testes to produce sperm. Low production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) can reduce the production of testosterone in the testes and can directly cause lower sperm production. Conceive Plus Men’s Sperm Motility Support and Conceive Plus Men’s Fertility Support (Male Prenatals) have been proven to help support the male reproductive system and promote healthy sperm quality and count while also increasing your libido & Impotence & erectile dysfunction improve.
3. Cancer and Tumors
The development of tumours along the male reproductive tract can affect the production and transport of sperm. Furthermore, oncological treatments of cancer such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy can directly alter the production of sperm, so it is highly advised that patients with related health conditions should consult their medical professionals on options for conceiving.
4. Immune disorder
In some men, they develop self immunity against their sperm called sperm antibodies. In these cases, their immune system produces sperm which recognizes and binds themselves to the sperm and consequently eliminates them from the system.
According to Andrology Australia, Approximately four in five men who underwent vasectomy will develop sperm antibodies one in sixteen infertile men has sperm antibody in their system. In this small percentage of men, the presence of sperm antibodies can affect male’s fertility by reducing sperm count and mobility.
Several infections related to the men reproductive organ can directly affect their infertility. Orchitis or the infection of the testes can cause damage to the sperm-producing tubes within the testicles and reduce the production of sperm. Most of these infections can be easily treated but antibiotics but severe damage may cause permanent male infertility.
6. Undescended testicles
Undescended testes or cryptorchidism is a condition when one or both of the testes have not descended from the abdominal region to the scrotum at birth. Most cases of undescended testicles are corrected in the first 12 months of life but more persistent, uncorrected undescended testes can lead to infertility because the higher temperature in the abdominal region is not suitable for sperm production.
Increase chances of getting pregnant
Couples who are trying to conceive should seek treatment after having no positive result within a year of actively trying. This threshold is lowered for couples where the female counterpart is aged 35 years old and above. For those couples who are within their first year of trying, they should seriously consider having intercourse when the female partner is within her fertility window or close to ovulation. Although there are various methods to determining the time of a woman’s ovulation, you can increase the level of accuracy by detecting a rise in basal body temperature (BBT) and a positive test in an ovulation predictor kit (OPK) that coincides with ovulation.
For a reliable and cheap basal body temperature thermometer, turn to Fertility2Family’s product which measures your BBT with high precision as well as accuracy.