Kanye West, Nick Cannon and John Legend are just some of our most popular male celebrities who’ve been the subject of rumoured difficulties when it comes to conceiving, so, why is talking about male infertility still such a taboo? As more men than ever appear to be battling problems with conceiving, we break down the facts.
In approximately 40% of couples with fertility issues the male is infertile, yet male infertility is still rarely spoken about as much as female infertility.
This is probably largely due to the negative associations attached to male infertility, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy or emasculation in many cases. As well as this, infertile men may often find that they do not have the same level of social support that infertile women have.
If you have been trying to conceive with your partner for over a year, a doctor may use the term infertile, however this does not necessarily mean that you can’t have children naturally.
Ultimately, if you and your partner have not conceived after a year it’s important to seek medical advice and rule out any underlying problems.
So, what are the causes and symptoms of male infertility?
There are no particular symptoms unique to male infertility as it can occur for a number of different reasons. However, it’s important to be aware of the following conditions as they could help to pinpoint the specific cause of any issue.
The most common and reversible cause of male infertility is a varicocele, which is a swelling of the veins that drain the testicles.
- Swelling of the testicles
- Prominent veins in the testicles
- A lump in the testicles that doesn’t hurt
- A dull ache in the scrotum
Sometimes male infertility is caused by an infection, which may obstruct the production of sperm, damage sperm health, or create scarring that prevents sperm from being ejaculated. Some infections include inflammation of the epididymis, or sexually transmitted infections such as HIV and gonorrhoea.
If you have any of the below symptoms, you may have an infection:
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the groin
- Low grade fever
- Urgent and frequent urination
- Blood in the semen
- Pain in the pelvic area or testicles
- Swelling or redness at the opening of the penis
- A pus-like discharge from the penis
Low hormone levels can also cause male infertility, with a number of different symptoms associated with the issue. You may only experience some of them. They include:
- Problems getting and maintaining an erection
- A lower libido than usual
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Reduced facial hair
Retrograde ejaculation occurs when semen enters the bladder during orgasm instead of exiting out of the tip of the penis. Diabetes, spinal injuries, medication and surgery of the bladder, prostate or urethra can cause ejaculation problems. The main symptom is cloudy urine after sex.
Environmental factors which contribute to male infertility
There are a variety of environmental factors that may cause male infertility. Anabolic steroids which are used to stimulate muscle growth can cause sperm production to decrease and the testicles to shrink. Illicit use of drugs such as cocaine and marijuana can also have this effect.
Alcohol consumption may lead to erectile dysfunction, reduced sperm quality and liver disease, which can cause infertility. Smoking tobacco will similarly lower your sperm count.
Obesity can have a massive impact on the quality of sperm produced, as obesity can affect hormone levels. As well as this, overweight men are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Emotional stress can impact your hormone levels, creating a hormonal imbalance that will negatively affect sperm production. Prolonged emotional stress can even affect your sperm count.
What treatments are available for male infertility?
There are a number of treatments for symptoms of male infertility, including:
- Lifestyle changes:
While the prospect of male infertility may be daunting, there are a number of ways to treat the issue at hand. Firstly, tackle any environmental factors within your control. Steer clear of smoking, alcohol and drug use. If you’re overweight, exercise regularly and eat healthily. Try to stick to organic foods, as these are free from pesticides that can interfere with hormone levels. Avoid situations that might result in prolonged heat exposure to your testicles and remove yourself from stressful situations.
- Natural supplements:
As well as a healthy diet and lots of exercise, natural supplements can also help manage infertility. Vitamin E is critical for the proper functioning of the endocrine system, which controls hormone secretion. Moreover, antioxidant supplements such as Condensyl boost the body’s ability to prevent sperm damage caused by environmental pollution and oxidisation. Finally, Vitamin C can increase sperm.
- Medical advice:
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with the medical conditions mentioned, seek advice from your doctor. Your doctor can direct you towards the correct course of action, and may prescribe appropriate medicine to treat infections or inflammations.
- Assisted Reproductive Technology:
If you’ve exhausted all options to conceive without the aid of technology, there are still options. Assisted Reproductive Technology – or ART – is a treatment that involves obtaining sperm either through normal ejaculation, surgical extraction or donor, depending on your specific situation and wishes. After the sperm is obtained, it is inserted into the female genital tract or used to perform IVF.