What Can Go Wrong With Male Fertility? Part 1
Researchers estimate about one in every three cases of infertility is due to problems with the male partner alone. While infertility is not always treatable, there are certainly some changes you can make via diet & supplementation and lifestyle strategies to boost your chances of conceiving naturally.
Male infertility is when a man has a poor chance of making his female partner pregnant. It usually is down to the quality of his sperm cells, however, in some cases, infertility is linked to sexual function and physiological structure abnormalities. Read on for the most common causes...
What are the common causes of fertility issues in men:
Structural issues such as varicocele. Varicocele is enlargement of testicular veins. A urologist or testicular scan will be done to investigate and possibly operate to resolve.
Infections. A semen culture is worth having to see if there is an infection that can be simply treated with antibiotics.
Hormonal issues. Testosterone is a key male hormone, which influences sperm production. Low testosterone causes changes in sperm production including volume, as well as a lowered libido.
Previous drug use. Replacement hormone treatment, steroids and some prescription drugs can have a negative effect on reproductive hormones that can impact sperm quality.
Health & lifestyle. Obesity, smoking and vaping, wearing tight clothing/underwear and stress can all impact hormone production and sperm production.
How can you check or test for male fertility?
To get an accurate picture of what’s going on with semen two seperate semen analyses should be done at least 7 days apart (ideally within about 2-3 months). Yes guys, this requires a trip to the doctor.
Testing will look for at a range of parameters including:
Low ejaculate volume
Low sperm count ie. how many sperm there are in each sample
Poor motility ie. movement
Poor morphology – shape (normal is considered above 4%)
Leukocytospermia. This is an unusual amount of white blood cells in the semen
Let's look deeper into what these mean...
An essential function of healthy sperm cells is their ability to swim. Sperm motility is measured as the percentage of moving sperm cells in a sample of semen.
Progressive motility – can swim in a straight line
Non-progressive motility – swimming but not in any particular direction
Total motility – total of above
Changes to motility can be caused by:
May be due to oxidative damage
White blood cells in the semen
Infections – STI’s, semen culture
Ideally, your doctor will be looking for 1.5-7.5ml of semen per ejaculation. If a low reading is observed, the following questions will be asked:
Was the sample collected properly?
Is there low testosterone? Testing further may be offered
Low protein intake inhibiting sperm production
Low Sperm Count
An important aspect of semen quality is the concentration of sperm cells in a given amount of semen. Most men today would have been considered infertile if they had been tested one or two generations ago! Common causes occur:
Oligospermia – low sperm
Azoospermia – no sperm present in ejaculate
Prolactinoma - tumour of the pituitary gland (blood test)
Etiology of sperm damage is multifactorial but the majority is associated with reactive oxygen species - essentially stress. This can be caused by inflammation, diet, toxins, stress, unhealthly lifestyle etc.
Sperm DNA is housed within the head of the sperm, so whilst understanding DNA changes or mutations can seem complicated, there are actually various methods of testing such as SCSA test, SCD/Halo test, TUNEL assay. The most common and easily accessible option is the Sperm Comet or TDL. Please note, you should not be offered a test shortly after or during illness with high fever.
Sperm DNA damage is associated with a significantly increased risk of pregnancy loss after IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), as well as recurrent miscarriage. The benefits of testing however are clear; it can help reinforce the importance of lifestyle modification, predict fertility and monitor patient’s response to intervention. It is also non-invasive, compared to many other tests offered to female partners.
Fortunately there are many natural interventions which can be used to improve male fertility so please do get in touch if you are having trouble conceiving. Book a free consultation with Gail to find out more.
Registered Nutritional Therapist
Gail Madalena is a registered nutritional therapist specialising in fertility, pregnancy and women’s health. Her expertise lies in hormonal imbalances, such as irregular cycles, debilitating PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, thyroid issues and sub-optimal fertility. Her goal is to reduce hormonal side effects and symptoms by addressing the root cause of the issue. Gail helps couples optimise your nutrition and lifestyle choices, supporting you on your journey to achieving a healthy pregnancy.