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Male Infertility

What is male infertility?
What are the signs of male infertility?
What causes male infertility?
How does my doctor tell if I have male infertility?
How is male infertility treated?

What is male infertility?

Infertility is defined as a couple being unable to become pregnant after having regular, unprotected sexual intercourse for a year. Male infertility means that the problem lies with the man's reproductive system. Infertility affects men and women equally – about half of infertility problems are caused by male infertility.

What are the signs of male infertility?

The sign of male infertility is a couple's inability to become pregnant after having regular, unprotected sexual intercourse for a year.

What causes male infertility?

Male infertility is caused by problems in a man's reproductive system. Such problems can include:

  • A man's body producing too few sperm, or no sperm at all. This can be caused by exposure to toxins or radiation; genetic problems; a severe mumps infection as a teenager or as an adult; or alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Defective sperm that die before the woman's egg can be fertilized, or that can't swim properly. This can be caused by hormone problems related to a tumor in the pituitary gland, by a venereal disease, by inflammation of the testicles, among other causes.
  • Erectile dysfunction, where a man can't maintain an erection
  • Ejaculation problems, where a man has trouble delivering the sperm to the woman's vagina. This includes premature ejaculation.
  • A natural decline in fertility, caused by aging

How does my doctor tell if I have male infertility?

If a couple is having trouble becoming pregnant, the man is usually referred to an urologist. In addition to a physical exam, this doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • Semen analysis to check the health of the man's sperm
  • Blood tests to check for infections and/or hormone imbalances
  • A MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of the pituitary gland, to make sure the problems aren't being caused by a growth or a tumor on the gland
  • Ultrasound of the reproductive organs to check for anything that might block the normal flow of semen during intercourse

How is male infertility treated?

Sometimes, a man's fertility can be restored by avoiding long, hot baths and wearing boxer shorts instead of tighter underwear. In other cases, a doctor will recommend medication to treat a hormone imbalance, to stimulate sperm production, to clear up an infection, and to possibly destroy a pituitary tumor.

Surgery is used to fix problems in the testicles, and to remove a pituitary tumor.

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