Infertility is often thought of as a mainly female problem. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. It is estimated that 30% of fertility issues are due to male fertility factors, 30% due to female fertility factors and the remaining 40% is either the result of these two combining or… unexplained. So whenever a couple experiences difficulties getting pregnant, male-related infertility issues should be considered equally important and relevant. When facing infertility, men – similarly as women – also experience emotional distress, anxiety and overwhelming grief. However, in their case, those feelings might be slightly better hidden.
As sperm plays a vital role in the process of conception, it is very important to have it evaluated already at the beginning of any fertility treatment in order to assure maximum effectiveness. The problem is that male infertility does not generally manifest itself clearly – most infertile men do not have any symptoms apart from their inability to conceive. The good news, on the other hand, is that once diagnosed, infertility in men can be successfully treated and eliminated in most cases.
Proper medicines or surgical procedures are often used to fix male infertility causes. However, these are the assisted reproductive techniques such as IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) and – especially – IVF with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) that are proved to be the most effective treatment for severe male factor infertility and sperm defects.
The clinical definition of male factor infertility is the presence of abnormal semen parameters in the man who together with his female partner is unable to conceive after one year of regular unprotected intercourse. According to the World Health Organisation, male factor infertility is defined as either the presence of abnormalities in the semen analysis or the presence of inadequate sexual or ejaculatory function. The male infertility can be complete or partial (subfertility). The most significant sperm parameters associated with male infertility are low sperm concentration (oligospermia), poor sperm motility (asthenospermia) and abnormal sperm morphology (teratospermia).
The causes of male infertility may be complex and diverse. The primary ones include disorders and abnormal conditions in the male reproductive tract. Blocked and enlarged veins around the testes, called varicoceles, are thought to cause infertility by raising the temperature in the scrotum and thus, decreasing sperm production. Retrograde ejaculation occurs when semen goes backwards in the body,making the chances of sperm fertilising an egg very low.