A large percentage of the male gender finds it hard to come to terms with the possibility of being the primary cause of infertility in their homes. It is generally believed that since males produce millions of sperms cells during coitus, all the sperm cells cannot be completely useless. I once heard a man jokingly saying, “So out of all the sperms her husband produced during sex every time; she couldn’t produce a good egg to fertilize one of the millions of sperm?” In other words, the problem lies with the woman, which is uncertain as it could be the other way round.
If you have been a member of the group that believes in the impossibility of the male gender being the cause of infertility in a marriage this is incorrect. The male gender can also be the cause of infertility. Aside from experiencing and sustaining an erection, which is crucial for fertility, male fertility depends largely on the healthiness of the released semen.
So how do we know if a man is infertile?
A man is infertile when he cannot produce healthy sperm cells, capable of fertilizing a healthy egg. This problem could be due to:
- Low sperm production
- Non-delivery of sperm.
- Abnormal sperm function
- Unhealthy lifestyle
Features of infertility in men
Surprisingly, there are no specific signs and symptoms of infertility in men, aside from the inability of their wives to conceive. However, the following may be indicators;
- Abnormal sexual function, e.g., ejaculation problem, a small volume of semen, reduced sexual desire, and erectile dysfunctional issues.
- Gynecomastia: Abnormal breast growth in men.
- Pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area
- Recurrent respiratory infections
- Low/no Sperm Count.
Characteristics of healthy sperm
Before discussing what can go wrong with sperm cells and semen, let’s discuss what healthy sperm looks like.
The volume of Semen: Anything greater than 2mls is fine.
Sperm count: A healthy sperm count is greater than or equal to 15 million per millilitre (ml) of semen.
Sperm Motility: You can produce millions of sperm cells, but if they are crippled, then they are useless. The point is that not every sperm cell moves or moves effectively. However, there is no cause for worry, as only 40% or more of the sperm must exercise movement.
Morphology of the Sperm: Healthy sperms are long with rounded heads and strong tails. Sperm with these features are most likely to fertilize an egg quickly.
However, it is essential to note that these characteristics can only be identified in the lab through a proper examination of the sperm. It is impossible to determine these characteristics outside a lab with just questioning and human observation.
Causes of infertility in men
The major causes of infertility in men include:
- Sperm disorders: Healthy sperm cells are vital for fertility in men. Thus, disorders of sperm are a major cause of infertility in men. Sperm disorders such as Oligospermia (low sperm count) and Azoospermia (lack of sperm cells in semen), can be caused by certain genetic conditions or specific poor lifestyle choices. Notable among them are smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking certain medications.
- Hormonal imbalance: The pituitary gland is responsible for releasing hormones that tell the testicles to produce sperm cells. Any reduction in the level of this hormone can lead to low or no sperm count.
- Varicocele: This condition is characterized by swollen veins that block proper blood drainage in the scrotum. This blockage of blood drainage causes an increase in the temperature of the scrotal sac; hence, a reduction in sperm production.
- Obstruction: This is when a part of the male reproductive tract is blocked either by repeated infections or through surgery, such as vasectomy.
- Retrograde ejaculation: This condition is characterized by the backflow of the semen into the urethra or bladder rather than moving out of the penis during orgasm.
- Drugs: Certain drugs can influence both sperm production and male sexual drive.
- Lifestyle: Some activities such as drinking, smoking, long exposures to radiation, heat from laptops, and wearing tight underwear can also contribute to infertility issues in men.
As stated earlier, diagnosis of the major cause of infertility in men cannot be made outside of the hospital since diagnosis requires carrying out specific tests.
So consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment options.
Your Physician will decide your treatment plan, depending on your diagnosis and the cause of infertility. So consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Olajumoke Adeyemo is a Pharmacy student of the University of Ibadan. She is a passionate copy & content writer, nature lover and a public health enthusiast. She is a Christian.
Her hobbies are reading, music, writing and traveling.