Male-factor infertility

Male-factor infertility refers to difficulty conceiving that’s primarily due to the sperm’s inability to fertilize the egg. Male-factor infertility can be caused by a number of factors, including low sperm production, chronic health problems, and abnormal sperm function. In cases of male-factor infertility, the female partner is typically ovulating normally and has healthy fallopian tubes.

What is male-factor infertility?

When a couple is unable to conceive for at least one year, they may be diagnosed with infertility. If a doctor can pinpoint issues involving the male, such as abnormal semen parameters or sexual dysfunction, it’s known as male-factor infertility. Around one-third of infertility cases are a result of male-factor infertility, and male subfertility contributes to an additional 10–20% of cases. Around 7% of men experience the condition.

Abnormal semen parameters include low sperm count, reduced motility (movement), abnormal morphology (size and shape), and low semen volume. The most common issue, appearing in as many as 90% of male infertility cases, is low sperm count.

Diagnosing male-factor infertility

A semen analysis can be used to diagnose male-factor infertility by examining sperm count and quality. The test can identify 9 out of 10 men experiencing fertility issues. Since semen quality can change, two analyses should be done 1 month apart to confirm sperm abnormalities and diagnose male-factor infertility.

Genetic and endocrine tests along with your medical history may also help identify the cause of the male-factor infertility. Risk factors for male-factor infertility include:

Treatments for male-factor infertility

The treatment for male-factor infertility depends on the cause, and may include:

  • varicocelectomy surgery to repair varicoceles, which research indicates can improve semen parameters
  • reviewing your medications with your doctor to ensure they don’t affect fertility
  • avoiding recreational drugs and making lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and eating a healthy diet
  • getting regular exercise and reaching or maintaining a healthy body weight

Assisted reproductive technology may also be used to help a couple with male-factor infertility become pregnant. This may involve intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

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