Table of Contents
What is infertility?
Infertility is the inability to get pregnant after trying for at least 1 year without using birth control. About 15% of couples are infertile.
How often are male factors involved?
About one-third of cases of infertility are caused by male factors alone. A combination of male and female factors causes about one-third of cases of infertility.
When should I see a doctor?
Usually, a couple should wait to see a doctor until after they've tried to get pregnant for a year. However, it's okay to see a doctor sooner, especially if the woman's age may be a factor.
Causes & Risk Factors
What causes male infertility?
The most common cause of male infertility is a varicocele (say: "var-ih-koh-seal"). A varicocele is made up of enlarged veins in the scrotum (the skin "sack" that hangs beneath the penis) on 1 or both sides. The veins make the inside of the scrotum warmer and can reduce sperm production by the testicle on the same side.
Other causes of male infertility include:
- A blockage in a man's reproductive system
- Certain medicines
- Low sperm count
- Sperm that are abnormally shaped or that don't move correctly
- Undescended testicles
- An underlying medical problem
Other factors that may affect fertility include tobacco smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and abuse of other illegal drugs, emotional stress, obesity and age (fertility gradually decreases in men who are older than 35). Sometimes the cause of male infertility cannot be identified. In these cases, there may be an underlying genetic problem.
Diagnosis & Tests
Should men be checked for infertility?
Yes. It's important to identify and treat any correctable problems. In some men, a doctor's exam may find an underlying medical problem that is causing the infertility.
How is infertility evaluated?
Your doctor will talk to you about your medical history, examine you and test your semen. Your doctor may want to test your semen more than once. A semen analysis can tell your doctor about your sperm count and sperm quality. These are important parts of fertility. Your doctor may recommend other tests depending on the results of this first evaluation.
Is male infertility treatable?
More than one-half of cases of male infertility can be corrected. Treatment may help a couple get pregnant through normal sexual intercourse. Even if you can't get pregnant in this way, you may not need expensive or invasive treatments to get pregnant. If the man needs surgery to correct the problem that is causing his infertility, it can often be done as an outpatient procedure. This means he doesn't have to stay in the hospital overnight.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Can my infertility be corrected with surgery?
- How long is the recovery time after surgery?
- If I stop smoking, would that help?
- Will treatment make it possible for us to have a baby?
- If treatment doesn't work, what are our options?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.