Many people spend a lot of time trying to avoid having a baby. So what happens when you’re ready to conceive, but pregnancy doesn’t occur? In most cases, this is the first sign of infertility.
Estimates show that 1 in 7 couples struggle with fertility problems, meaning they haven’t conceived a child despite having unprotected sex for one year or longer. For up to half of these couples, male infertility is at least partially responsible. But who’s at risk?
Mike Hsieh, MD, specializes in male reproductive medicine at his practice in La Jolla, California. As a male fertility specialist, Dr. Hsieh provides compassionate and expert care in diagnosing and treating sensitive issues, including ejaculatory disorders, sperm production impairment, hormone imbalances, and infertility.
In this blog, Dr. Hsieh offers insight into male infertility and who can be at risk of this condition.
Understanding male infertility
More than 5 million American couples deal with infertility, and around 10% experience male infertility. Male infertility occurs for several reasons. However, it always describes a problem within the reproductive system that prevents pregnancy from taking place.
Pregnancy occurs when healthy male sperm fertilizes a female egg, and it gets implanted in the female’s uterus. For the pregnancy to continue, the fertilized egg — or embryo — needs to be healthy, and the hormonal environment in the woman’s uterus needs to be adequate for its development.`
For a man to successfully impregnate a female egg, they need to have two things: healthy sperm and the ability to achieve an erection and ejaculate the sperm so it can reach the egg. Issues with either of these components can cause male infertility.
Causes of male infertility
For many men, the most common cause of infertility involves healthy sperm production. Instead, the sperm can have unusual shapes, be unable to swim, or be immature. It’s even possible to not make any or enough sperm.
Several things can cause sperm production disorders, such as:
- Pituitary gland or hormone problems
- Immune problems
- Genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis
- Infections or inflammatory conditions
- Lifestyle and environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins, heavy alcohol use, or tobacco use
Male infertility can also arise from structural issues that block the flow of semen. These problems can be due to birth or genetic defects, as well as scar tissue, swollen, twisted veins in the scrotum, or inflammation or infection from sexually transmitted diseases.
Recognizing your risk for male infertility
As we mentioned above, most people don’t realize they have a fertility issue until they try to conceive without success. However, there are factors that can increase the risk for male infertility, such as:
- Poor diet
- Being overweight or obese
- Early or late puberty
- Being age 40 or older
- Undescended testicles
- Physical injury or twisting of the testicles
- A history of varicoceles, genital infections, or prostate inflammation
- Genital exposure to high temperatures, such as from hot tubs or saunas
- Exposure to radiation or environmental toxins
- Taking certain medications
Undergoing hernia repair can also increase your chances of male infertility.
Diagnosing and treating male infertility
If you’ve struggled to conceive, Dr. Hsieh can help get to the bottom of it. First, he conducts a comprehensive exam to look for the underlying cause. This could include diagnostic testing, such as hormone testing, genetic analysis, or semen analysis.
After identifying what’s behind your fertility issues, Dr. Hsieh can make personalized recommendations to help. For example, he may recommend:
- Herbal and nutritional supplements
- Prescription medications
- Stimulatory hormone injections
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
- Vasectomy reversal
Dr. Hsieh also offers expert care for treating cancer patients experiencing infertility issues.
If you’re struggling with infertility, you can get the help you need. To learn more, call 858-216-2561 to book an appointment with the practice of Mike Hsieh, MD, today.