To explore male infertility, let’s first go back to the basics.
Sperm is created in the testes and stored inside the epididymis, which connects to the vas deferens. The vas deferens is a long tube that transports mature sperm from the epididymis to the penis. It is at this stage that the sperm is combined with seminal fluid, which is produced by the seminal vesicles and prostate gland. During a typical ejaculation, there are around 150 million sperm released through the penis in less than a teaspoon of semen.
The process of creating and releasing sperm is dependent upon a male’s hormones, including testosterone, as well as the nervous system. The nervous system plays a key role in ejaculation, which is why many paraplegics need assistance in reproduction.
Common Causes of Male Infertility
The most common causes of male infertility include problems with sperm production, sperm motility (i.e., the ability to swim), or sperm function (i.e., the ability to penetrate or fertilize the egg).
Sperm Production Issues
Some issues affecting a male’s sperm count and quality include the following:
- Varicocele – a common and correctable cause of male fertility problems in which veins bulge on top of the testicle(s)
- Undescended testicle (when a testicle does not move from inside the body into the scrotum prior to birth)
- Infections that harm the testes
- Chemotherapy and certain medications, including steroids, male hormones such as testosterone, seizure medications, calcium channel blockers, and anti-androgen medications
- Genetic malformations
- Hormonal irregularities
Sperm Motility & Function Issues
Some men have normal sperm production, but issues with the sperm, seminal fluid, or reproductive organs bar the sperm from being able to complete the journey as intended. Men who have this issue produce sperm in the testicles, but the sperm does not get into the semen or the semen does not get ejaculated. Reasons for this type of male infertility include:
- Retrograde Ejaculation, which is when ejaculation is backward, moving into the bladder instead of through the penis
- Absence of the vas deferens
- Obstruction in the reproductive system, which can occur anywhere in the tubing throughout the penis
- Anti-sperm antibodies (i.e., auto-immune cells that destroy a person’s own sperm)
Up to 25% of men who have male infertility will not be able to identify any direct cause of sperm abnormalities.
Male Infertility Diagnosis & Treatment
Usually, infertile couples will be assessed for fertility issues at the same time. For men, the first test that is conducted is a semen analysis. Semen is collected through masturbation (usually at home or in a private collection room at one of our 4 clinics) in order to assess sperm count, shape, and movement.
If it is determined that a man has abnormal semen parameters, he may seek additional testing and treatment through a urologist, especially if there is a hormonal imbalance at play. In addition, there are many fertility treatments that can be used, such as IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (In vitro fertilization) which have made conception possible despite sperm abnormalities and male infertility.
Advanced Care for Male Infertility in Florida
The Reproductive Medicine Group has many years of experience diagnosing and treating the full spectrum of male infertility issues in Florida. With locations in North Tampa, South Tampa, Brandon, Clearwater, and Wesley Chapel, our expert team of fertility specialists is ready to answer all your questions and provide personalized fertility care. Schedule a consultation with The Reproductive Medicine Group.