Did you know that male infertility occurs just as often as female infertility? This may come as a surprise. Many people assume that it's the woman's fault when a couple experiences fertility problems, but that's just one of the many misconceptions that surround infertility and, specifically, male infertility.
Consider these facts on male infertility:
- There is really no clear winner in the battle of the sexes when it comes to infertility. Infertility equally affects men and women. About 1/3 of infertility cases are related to male factors, 1/3 are related to female factors, and the remaining 1/3 are related to both male and female factors, or are unexplained. Unexplained causes of infertility make up about 20% of all cases.
- Many cases of male infertility can be treated, allowing the couple to get pregnant.
- Most cases of male infertility are due to low sperm count (oligospermia) or, rarely, a complete absence of sperm (azoospermia). Other factors that contribute to male infertility include:
- other problems with sperm, such as sperm that is improperly-shaped or that cannot swim properly (sperm quality) – these may be caused by infections, age, medical conditions, or exposure to chemicals or high temperatures
- problems with parts of the male anatomy (e.g., undescended testes, varicocele)
- hormone problems in the testicles or pituitary gland
- infections (e.g., sexually transmitted infections, mumps after puberty)
- retrograde ejaculation (a condition where semen travels in the wrong direction and moves into the bladder instead of out of the penis during ejaculation)
- genetic disorders (e.g., Klinefelter's syndrome)
- erectile dysfunction (difficulty getting an erection that is adequate for penetration)
- antibodies that attack sperm – this can occur after an injury, infection, or vasectomy.
During fertility evaluation, it is just as important for your doctor to assess you as it is to assess your female partner. Because of the misconception that infertility is a women-only problem, men may be overlooked or paid less attention when it comes to determining causes of infertility. Fortunately, this kind of thinking is changing.
Doctors have the medical technology to address many of the fertility problems couples face. With proper assessment of both partners, a fertility specialist can make a diagnosis and the couples can decide on how to proceed with their fertility treatment.
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