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Male Infertility – What You Need to Know

When a couple fails to conceive a child, there could be a fertility issue with one partner, neither, or both. Sometimes, the answer is just to give the process a little more time. But sometimes, the natural process needs a little medical push. The following is some basic information you need to understand male infertility.

To oversimplify the process a bit, a man's fertility has two basic components – producing sperm that can do the job and delivering them successfully to the location where they will do their job. Consequently, the fertilization process can break down at either the production or delivery end of conception.

First, let's address the issue of production. Sperm must be produced in adequate numbers, and they must be properly shaped and sized to be able to swim where they’re going and penetrate the egg when they get there. The semen in which the sperm are contained must have the proper components, and be free of factors that limit or reduce sperm health. An example of problems with the semen would be the presence of antibodies which cause the sperm to clump together or limit their ability to swim effectively.

In terms of delivery, the man must be able to ejaculate and successfully deliver his semen. An example of problems in delivery would be retrograde ejaculation, a condition which causes the semen to enter the bladder during ejaculation, rather than being expelled through the urethra.

If your partner hasn’t been able to conceive after six months to one year, it may be time to consider a fertility evaluation. About 30% of the time, a problem is found with the woman, and an equal amount of time, the problem is found with the man. The remaining 40% of the time, both partners will have an issue that affects fertility.

Evaluating fertility in a man involves a physical exam, a semen analysis, and sometimes blood work to evaluate potential hormonal problems. As the process of evaluating male fertility is much less invasive than evaluating female fertility – not to mention less expensive and faster – it’s typically preferable to have the male partner evaluated before the female partner is subjected to an invasive and expensive evaluation.

If you aren’t yet ready to seek out medical attention, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of being able to impregnate your partner.

  • Eat a healthy diet and take a multivitamin and mineral supplement daily.
  • Get mild exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Stop smoking and limit your consumption of alcohol.
  • Avoid illegal drugs entirely, and talk with your doctor about any prescription medications you’re taking that could affect your fertility. Any kind of hormonal product, including anabolic steroids, anti-androgens or testosterone supplements can also reduce your fertility.
  • Stay cool. Avoid hot tubs, long hot baths, and tight underpants, as these can decrease sperm production.
  • Staying cool also means keeping your stress level low. Dealing with infertility can be stressful for couples, so don't be afraid to ask for emotional support or therapy if you think it would be helpful.
  • Avoid other chemicals. This would include chemicals you might be exposed to at work, or even lubricants used during sexual activity.

The good news is that the vast majority of the time, medical science is able to help infertile couples achieve a successful pregnancy. If you’re having problems with conceiving, talk with your doctor – the answer to your problems may be easier than you think.

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