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Dealing with fertility issues can be really heartbreaking for couples. Apart from struggling with conceiving issues, they also have to deal with the stigma and distress that comes along with it. According to some research, one-third of these cases are due to male infertility. Yes, infertility is not just related to women.
Anyone who is struggling and has struggled with infertility knows the pain and how difficult this battle is.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that if a couple is not able to conceive or fails to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of having regular unprotected sexual intercourse, the couple is dealing with infertility and needs professional help.
Health Shots spoke to Dr Pallavi Prasad, Fertility Consultant at Nova IVF Fertility, Basaveshwaranagar, Bengaluru, to find out the causes behind male infertility.
She says, “Any health issue in men that lowers/hinders the chances of their female partner getting pregnant is known as male infertility. Usually, the signs include problems in performing intercourse like erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory dysfunction, or reduction of sexual desire or libido. There could also be pain or discomfort in the testicular area, abnormal breast growth, decreased body/facial hair, loss of muscle mass or voice change that could indicate male infertility.”
Causes of male infertility could be medical, environmental or lifestyle related.
1. Medical: Medical issues could be swelling of veins (varicocele), infections, tumors, undescended testicles, hormonal issues, etc.
2. Lifestyle related: Lifestyle can also have a huge impact on male fertility. Habits such as smoking and drinking can affect sperm count and testosterone levels. Being overweight can cause hormonal imbalance in men.
3. Environmental: If a man works in an environment where he is exposed to harmful radiation or heat, it can also affect his fertility. Modern electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops emit harmful radiation. In fact, placing electronic devices like laptops on the testicular area while working will overheat the testicles and can result in male fertility issues.
When a couple trying to conceive, issues with male fertility are often overlooked and it is easier for people to fall for myths.
Both men and women can face fertility issues. In fact, one-third of cases of infertility are due to the male factor, one-third due to the female and the rest are a shared lot.
The reality is completely opposite. Many people believe testosterone supplements can increase sperm count but taking them can reduce or stop the male’s ability to produce testosterone which can make your partner prone to infertility and can drastically decrease the sperm count.
Many people still believe that men can continue to have healthy children throughout their lives. With increasing age, the sperm quality and quantity is affected making it difficult for them to impregnate their partner.
Have ever heard the debate about whether men should wear boxers or briefs when trying to become parents? Well, it is believed that tight underwear such as briefs can make it difficult to maintain healthy sperm production and therefore men should ditch it in favour of boxers. But it’s a myth and it’s not yet scientifically proven.
Male infertility is linked to certain underlying health issues. Infertile men are at a higher risk of health conditions like cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
To determine the underlying problem, doctors will first do a thorough general physical exam and take the patient’s medical history. Then there will be Semen Analysis, which is very important as it helps measure the sperm count and deduce any abnormalities in the shape or motility of the sperm. Some additional tests could also be recommended like genetic tests, scrotal ultrasounds, hormone tests, transrectal ultrasound, and DNA Fragmentation Index (DFI) to name a few.
“The treatment for male infertility depends on what is causing it. For example, surgeries can opt when there is a physical problem that is obstructing sperm transport. If there is no sperm present in the ejaculate, sperm retrieval can be done directly from the testicles. Medications can help in treating male fertility issues caused by infections, hormonal imbalance, and issues in sexual performance. Assisted Reproductive Technology treatments like In vitro fertilization (IVF) and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) are very helpful to treat male infertility,” says Dr Prasad.