About 40% of the fertility issues we see at Virtus Fertility Centre are due to male fertility. So it’s important to understand how the male reproductive system works, to understand possible causes of infertility.
The good news is that the most common causes of male infertility are easily diagnosed, and most can also be treated.
- Sperm production
Healthy sperm is vital to conceive a baby, which is made up of the head, where the genetic material needed for fertilisation is stored, a neck (mid-piece) and a tail for propulsion towards the egg.
More than 20 million sperm per mL need to be present in the semen for natural conception, and more than half of these need to be able to move forward quickly, with at least 10% a normal shape.
Sperm and testosterone are both produced in the testes. Sperm then pass slowly through a series of long coiled tubules called the epididymis, where they mature so they can swim and penetrate an egg cell. They then travel via the vas deferens to the urethra and out of the penis as they are ejaculated.
The entire process of sperm formation takes about 72 days. Serious illness during this time can affect sperm quality and production for up to three months.
- Abnormal sperm production
The most common causes of male infertility are:
- Azoospermia - where no spermatozoa are produced and/or found in the ejaculate.
- Oligospermia – where fewer spermatozoa are produced.
Sometimes spermatozoa are malformed, and in rare cases genetic diseases may be at fault. Other specific conditions include:
- Immuological infertility – where you develop antibodies against your own sperm
- Retrograde ejaculation – where sperm is not ejaculated through the urethra but into the urinary bladder
- Blockages in the vas deferens, due to injury or a previous vasectomy
- Subnormal quality of sperm
It’s good to know that we have treatment strategies for all forms of male infertility – so if you are diagnosed with any of these symptoms, or a combination of both male and female causes, Virtus Fertility Centre can help.
- How does age affect fertility in men?
Men produce sperm their whole lives, so the effect of age on a man’s fertility is not as dramatic as in women. However, there are some important lifestyle factors to take into consideration. Sperm quality can be affected by:
- Excessive alcohol
- Prescription medication, steroids and other drug use
- Excess weight and high BMI (Body Mass Index)
- Frequent exposure to heat
- Working in cramped conditions
- Exposure to environmental pollutants e.g. bisphenol A found in plastic containers, pesticides etc
- Exposure to radiation
- Acute viral illness