There are more than a few conditions which cause male infertility. Among them; hormonal imbalances, retrograde ejaculation (semen ejaculates into the bladder) and erectile dysfunction. But the most common cause of male factor infertility is a sperm disorder such as low sperm count, abnormal sperm, low motility (movement) and the absence of sperm. Here we take a look at sperm disorders that cause infertility, the issues that cause them and how your doctor can help.
The Role of Sperm
As you know from the fundamentals of human reproduction, male sperm has the job of fertilizing the female egg. This happens, normally, when the male ejaculates semen into the female during intercourse. At that point the male partner releases roughly 100 million sperm that “swim” through the cervix and into the fallopian tube where the egg awaits. One of those swimmers fertilizes the egg which then makes its way into the uterus, implants and a baby grows.
Those couples trying to conceive without success for a year or more (six months for women over 35) may begin a fertility evaluation. At that time, your doctor takes a detailed health history and determines any possible underlying conditions. Testing begins for both the man and the woman.
Common Sperm Disorders Found Through Semen Analysis
Testing for male infertility starts with a semen analysis. When the male partner ejaculates and provides a sample for examination this is the semen analysis. There are many different fertility issues detectable through semen analysis, sperm disorders among them. In order for an accurate diagnosis, your doctor requires more than a few semen samples. From those samples the doctor may find a common sperm disorder such as the following:
Azoospermia is a condition in which a man ejaculates normally, but the semen doesn’t contain any sperm. This is a severe type of male infertility and most often related to an underlying condition such as a genetic condition, imbalanced hormones, an undiagnosed STI or a congenital abnormality. Scar tissue from testicular surgery may also interfere with sperm production. Depending on the cause, your doctor may clear the scar tissue surgically, balance your hormones through medication or provide some form of treatment to enable sperm production. If this is not possible, you and your partner may consider IVF or IUI with donor sperm.
Aspermia is a condition where a man releases zero semen when he ejaculates. Your doctor may determine aspermia results from retrograde ejaculation, hormone imbalance or other underlying conditions. Just as with azoospermia, the treatment depends on the cause.
A common symptom of retrograde ejaculation, hypospermia occurs when the ejaculate is less than 1.5 milliliters (about 1/4 teaspoon) of semen. Hypospermia may also result from genetic or congenital abnormalities or hormonal imbalance. Again, treatment depends on the cause.
In order for conception, sperm must move forward toward the egg. With the condition asthenozoospermia the sperm moves slowly or abnormally. Asthenozoospermia may result from poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, illicit drug use or certain types of medication. It’s also common among those exposed to toxins, such as found in agriculture and some manufacturing.
The shape of your sperm is very important to the task of fertilization. In order for sperm to move toward, and penetrate the egg, it must have a normal shape. Misshapen sperm or a low sperm count are usually due to a condition called oligospermia. Common causes are varicocele (varicose veins in the testicles), undescended testicles or an infection in the reproductive tract. Environmental toxins and conditions and lifestyle choices contribute to this condition. Sometimes, just making healthy lifestyle changes and avoiding overheating may help.
This is another condition affecting the shape of the sperm. With teratospermia the sperm may have double tails and/or heads, lack a tail or their shape may be ineffective for fertilization. Some causes are varicocele, infection, testicular trauma, radiation, high fevers, diabetes and some medications. Lifestyle choices such as poor diet, excessive alcohol use and recreational drugs also impact sperm shape.
A condition whereby all sperm in the semen are dead is necrospermia. This often results from a hormone disorder, problems with the reproductive tract or going long periods without ejaculating. A false positive necrospermia diagnosis often results when you use a condom to collect the semen sample that did not come from your doctor’s office or if you used a non-fertility friendly lubricant. Your doctor may suggest testicular sperm extraction which involves numbing the testicles and extracting the immature sperm through a needle cannula. The lab matures the sperm and, via IVF, injects the sperm directly into the egg (ICSI).
Also known as OAT this is the most common cause of male factor infertility. A low sperm count, misshapen sperm and low motility result in infertility. There are many things that cause OAT. Among them: poor lifestyle choices, excessive alcohol consumption, undiagnosed STI or other infection of the reproductive tract, genetic predisposition, congenital abnormalities, and anti-sperm antibodies. Depending on the reason for your OAT, you and your doctor determine the next steps.
If you’re concerned about male factor infertility don’t wait. Contact the fertility specialists at LA IVF today and let’s find the answers.