Infertility exists when you and your life partner are unable to conceive a
child even after twelve months of continuous
sexual intercourse without birth control methods.
Infertility can be because of a single cause in either your body parts or your partner's, or a
combination of factors that may prevent a pregnancy from occurring or
Infertility is different from sterility. Being sterile means you
will never ever
conceive a child. With sterility, you or your partner has a physical problem
that precludes the ability to conceive. A diagnosis of infertility simply
means that becoming pregnant may be a challenge rather than an
Causes of male infertility
There are a number of causes for male infertility which can result in
impaired sperm count or mobility, or impaired ability to fertilize the egg.
The most common causes of male infertility include abnormal sperm production
or function, impaired delivery of sperm, conditions related to a man's
general health and lifestyle, and overexposure to extreme environment:
Abnormal sperm production or function. Most cases of
male infertility are due to sperm abnormalities, such as:
- Impaired shape and movement of sperm.
Sperm must be properly shaped and able to move rapidly and accurately
toward the egg for fertilization to occur. If the shape and structure
(morphology) of the sperm are abnormal or the movement (motility) is
impaired, sperm may not be able to reach the egg.
- Absent sperm production in testicles.
Complete failure of the testicles to produce sperm is rare, affecting very
few infertile men.
- Low sperm concentration. A normal
sperm concentration is greater than or equal to 20 million sperm per
milliliter of semen. A count of 10 million or fewer sperm per milliliter
of semen indicates low sperm concentration (subfertility). A count of 40
million sperm or higher per milliliter of semen indicates increased
- Varicocele. A varicocele is a
varicose vein in the scrotum that may prevent normal cooling of the
testicle and raise testicular temperature, preventing sperm from
- Undescended testicle (cryptorchidism).
This occurs when one or both testicles fail to descend from the abdomen
into the scrotum during fetal development. Undescended testicles can cause
mild to severely impaired sperm production. Because the testicles are
exposed to the higher internal body temperature compared to the
temperature in the scrotum, sperm production may be affected.
- Testosterone deficiency (male hypogonadism).
Infertility can result from disorders of the testicles themselves, or an
abnormality affecting the hypothalamus or pituitary glands in the brain
that produce the hormones that control the testicles.
- Klinefelter's syndrome. In this
disorder of the sex chromosomes, a man has two X chromosomes and one Y
chromosome instead of one X and one Y. This causes abnormal development of
the testicles, resulting in low or absent sperm production. Testosterone
production also may be lower.
- Infections. Infection may
temporarily affect sperm motility. Repeated bouts of sexually transmitted
diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, are most often
associated with male infertility. These infections can cause scarring and
block sperm passage. Mycoplasma is an organism that may fasten itself to
sperm cells, making them less motile. If mumps, a viral infection usually
affecting young children, occurs after puberty, inflammation of the
testicles can impair sperm production. Inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis),
urethra or epididymis also may alter sperm motility.