Male infertility is a reproductive health problem that affects less than ten percent of the global male population. One might think that 10% is just an insignificant number. But if you are part of that unfortunate ten percent, the problem wouldn’t be so insignificant at all.
Infertility is a heartbreaking condition, one that can affect not just your relationship with your partner, but also your self-image and sense of manliness. If you’re wondering whether you’re already becoming infertile, here are 7 signs to watch out for.
Overview of Male Infertility
If after trying for more than a year and you are still unable to impregnate your partner, one of you may be suffering from fertility issues. You might want to consider visiting a fertility clinic to find out what’s causing the problem and discuss your options.
You may need to go through various laboratory tests, but your doctor will be able to determine if you are infertile based on your sperm parameters. Your semen will be analyzed to check the concentration, motility, morphology, and volume. Your doctor may also check the chemical makeup, liquefaction time, and fructose levels of your semen.
For sperm concentration, your sperm count should number between 15 to 200 million per milliliter. It’s considered low if it’s below 15 million. In terms of sperm motility, more than 50% of your sperm should be motile and active. Below that rate, your sperm motility will be considered poor.
For sperm morphology, your doctor will look at both the size and shape of your sperm. You have poor sperm morphology if less than 30% of your sperm are normally shaped. With regard to semen volume, your doctor will check if the volume of your semen sample reaches 2.5 milliliters.
Male infertility is usually caused by poor sperm parameters. If your sperm cells are not fully developing in your testicles and epididymis, it can result in infertility since you won’t have enough mature sperm to fertilize your partner’s egg.
If you have asthenospermia or poor sperm motility, it will also lower your chances of getting your partner pregnant. That’s because when your sperm cells are not moving the right way, they can’t swim towards your partner’s egg, so no fertilization will happen.
However, other factors can also cause infertility like if your seminal vesicles are not producing enough seminal fluid or if there’s something blocking your sperm from exiting your penis when you ejaculate.
It’s also possible for you to become infertile even if your testicles are working fine and your hormonal levels are normal. If you’re suffering from retrograde ejaculation, it means that your semen goes back to your bladder instead of exiting your penis during ejaculation. This condition is sometimes called dry ejaculation since no semen is coming out of your penis.
Signs of Male Infertility
The most significant sign of male infertility is when you’re unable to impregnate your partner, no matter how often or how hard you both try. However, there are also other symptoms that can warn you about possible fertility problems.
1. Drastic changes in libido.
For both men and women, fertility is closely associated with hormone health. If your sex hormone levels suddenly spike or drop, it can adversely affect your sexual desire. And it can impact your fertility as well since your sperm production is very much influenced by your testosterone levels.
2. Testicular swelling or pain.
It’s always a bad sign if your testicles become swollen. Testicular swelling may be due to several reasons. You may have a sexually transmitted infection or you’ve had an episode of testicular torsion, or there’s a tumor growing inside your testicles. All these can cause male infertility.
3. Sexual dysfunction.
Although not all impotent men are infertile, there is a strong link between sexual dysfunction and infertility. A recent study indicated that at least one in six infertile men has erectile dysfunction or is suffering from premature ejaculation.
The prevalence of orgasmic dysfunction in infertile men, on the other hand, is lower but still significant at 10%. In addition, infertility often leads to various psychological issues. These psychological burdens can also contribute to sexual dysfunction.
4. Respiratory infections that are recurring.
Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) is a rare genetic disease characterized by respiratory infections that keep recurring and infertility due to poor sperm motility. In men who have PCD, the tail of their sperm is not moving properly which is why they have low sperm motility.
5. Inability to smell.
You may find the connection between infertility and the inability to smell weird, but there’s actually a medical condition called Kallman’s syndrome that connects the two.
Kallman’s syndrome is another rare genetic disorder that causes hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, which means your testicles are not properly performing their functions of producing testosterone and sperm. Losing your sense of smell is simply a side effect of Kallman’s syndrome.
6. Very small testicles.
Your testicles are the ones responsible for producing your sperm. If your testicles are quite small, it may lead to a low sperm count. Having very small testicles is one of the signs of Klinefelter’s syndrome, another genetic condition.
Men who have Klinefelter’s syndrome are usually infertile. But through testicular sperm extraction and assisted reproductive technology, their chances of fathering a child has now greatly increased.
7. Hormonal abnormalities.
Just like in women, the reproductive function of men is also driven by hormones. For instance, before your testes can produce sperm and testosterone, your luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone need to stimulate your testes first.
If you don’t have enough of these two hormones, your testes may produce only a small amount of testosterone or sperm, if at all. Hormones produced by your pituitary gland, hypothalamus, thyroid, and adrenal glands also impact your fertility.
See Your Doctor
If you experience any of the telltale signs of infertility discussed here, try to visit your doctor and have yourself checked. It may be that you’re not infertile yet, but your risks are high. Although it’s never easy to admit to your doctor or to anybody else that you can’t father a child, your chances of successful treatment are higher if you get diagnosed and treated early.