When you start trying to conceive, it’s all fun and games. You probably don’t expect to get pregnant the first time you try, but your hopes are high, and you’re both dreaming of nurseries, baby blankets, and pacifiers.
However, month after agonizing month, the disappointment of a negative pregnancy test replaces your visions of a family with panic and worry.
Where are you going wrong, and why aren’t you getting pregnant as easily as your friends?
The answers to those questions aren’t always straightforward; however, our board-certified urologist, Dr. Mike Hsieh, has years of experience helping couples understand the complexities of male infertility and providing treatment and guidance to increase their chances of conception.
Here’s a closer look at male infertility and what you can do about it.
When you think of everything that must go right to get pregnant, you’ll understand that every successful conception is a miracle.
To get pregnant, the following has to happen:
- Your partner must produce enough female reproductive hormones
- An egg must mature in her ovary
- Her ovary must release that egg (ovulation)
- Her fallopian tube has to pick up the egg
- You must produce enough healthy, mobile sperm
- Your sperm has to travel through the uterus to the fallopian tube
- Your sperm has to fertilize the egg and create an embryo
- The embryo must travel to and implant in the uterus
Pregnancy cannot and will not occur if there’s a problem at any point in this process.
Until you’re in the thick of family planning, you may not realize how common infertility is. Approximately 48 million couples around the world are infertile, which means they’re unable to get pregnant after one year of regular, unprotected sex (six months if you’re 35 or older).
The three main types of infertility are primary, secondary, and unexplained. Primary infertility means you and your partner haven’t been able to conceive at all, secondary infertility means you’re having trouble getting pregnant again after at least one successful pregnancy, and unexplained fertility means there’s no known reason why you can’t get pregnant.
Infertility isn’t an either-or issue — it can affect both men and women. Infertility is also an incredibly complicated issue, with any number of factors influencing your chances of conception.
Some factors that influence both male and female infertility include age, lifestyle, diet, and health history. However, there are causes of infertility that are unique to each gender.
Understanding male infertility
Experts estimate that around 15% of men have male infertility, which can stem from a wide range of issues, including:
- Enlarged veins (varicocele) in your scrotum
- Injury to your scrotum or testicles
- Low testosterone
- Misuse of anabolic steroids
- Sexually transmitted disease
- Undescended testicles
- Chemotherapy or radiation treatments
- Overheating the testicles
- Sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction
- Peryronie’s disease
- Anejaculation, premature ejaculation, or retrograde ejaculation
- Genetic or chromosomal disorders
- Certain medication
Anything that affects the number, health, and/or motility of your sperm or your sexual functioning can hamper your chances of conception.
Recognizing the warning signs
The most obvious sign of infertility is not being able to get pregnant, and there are usually no other indicators. But in some cases, as with an inherited disorder, hormonal imbalance, dilated testicular veins, or blockage, you may notice some signs and symptoms, including:
- Difficulty with ejaculation
- Small volumes of fluid ejaculated
- Reduced sexual desire
- Erectile dysfunction
- Pain, swelling, or a lump in your testicles
- Abnormal breast growth (gynecomastia)
- Decreased facial or body hair
- Lower than normal sperm count
All of these symptoms are cause for concern even if you aren’t struggling with fertility issues, so you should make plans to see Dr. Hsieh as soon as possible.
Diagnosing male infertility
If you suspect you’re the source of your and your partner’s infertility issues, our men’s health specialists are here to help. We conduct a thorough review of your current and past health status and perform physical and diagnostic tests, such as semen analysis, hormone testing, genetic analysis, and even ultrasonic imaging, to get to the bottom of your fertility issues.
We also offer couples’ infertility evaluations, co-located with our female infertility specialist in our office.
Treating male infertility
There are a few different ways we can treat male infertility, and it all depends on the underlying problem. Your treatment plan may include:
- Stimulatory hormone injections
- Prescription medications
- Herbal supplement
- Nutritional supplements
- Vasectomy reversal
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
We also offer specialized treatments for patients who have undergone intensive cancer treatment, which includes freezing sperm.
Dr. Hsieh and our team want every couple to have the support and care they need to navigate the physical and emotional toll of infertility. If you’d like to speak with one of our experts, schedule an infertility consultation online or over the phone at our La Jolla, California, office today.