All About Male Fertility

June 2023 (5 min read)

Evidence suggests that around 30% of infertility is associated with male factor, 30% to female factor, 20% to combined factors and 20% unexplained factors.

It is estimated that around 1 in 7 men in the UK are affected by some form of male infertility. This means that around 2.8 million men in the UK may have difficulty conceiving naturally.

In the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of male infertility. The primary reason for male infertility lies with the sperm itself with it being estimated that around 40% of male infertility cases are caused by medical conditions relating to the sperm.

Global figures suggest sperm concentration has halved in 40 years – and the rate of decline is accelerating. The data shows a decline of around 2.5% each year in mean sperm concentration since the year 2000, which is a clear signal that something is wrong with men’s sperm count around the world, something that cannot be explained by genetics.

Research points to a connection between environmental toxins and hormonal disruptions or imbalances, which in turn impede reproductive capacity. Growing evidence that plasticisers, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, toxic gases, air pollution and poor lifestyle choices such as sedentary behaviour, poor diet and smoking all are tied to abnormal sperm count.

There are a number of conditions affecting sperm which can impact fertility outcomes:

Azoospermia :where there are no sperm in the semen.

It can be caused by a number of factors, including varicocele, testicular injury, genetic disorders, and infections.

Oligospermia: where there are fewer than 20 million sperm per millilitre of semen.

A low sperm count is one of the most common causes of male infertility.

Asthenozoospermia: where the sperm are not motile, or moving, properly.

It can be caused by a number of factors, including varicocele, infection, and exposure to toxins.

Teratozoospermia: where the sperm have abnormal morphology, or shape.

It can be caused by a number of factors, including varicocele, infection, and exposure to toxins.

Hypospermia: where the volume of semen is less than 1.5 millilitres.

It can be caused by a number of factors, including varicocele, infection, and exposure to toxins.

Sperm quality can be affected by a number of factors, including

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Drug use
  • Certain medications
  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes or cancer

As well as the conditions related to sperm there are a number of other conditions that can compromise sperm production and limit fertility including:

Varicocele: a varicose vein in the scrotum.

Varicoceles are common, affecting around 15% of men. However, they only cause infertility in around 40% of cases.

Testicular injury: can damage the testicles and reduce sperm production.

Genetic disorders: for example, Klinefelter syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects about 1 in 500 men. Klinefelter syndrome can cause infertility by reducing sperm production and testosterone levels.

Undescended testicles: testicles that do not descend into the scrotum during development. Undescended testicles can increase the risk of infertility later in life.

Infections: some infections, such as mumps, can damage the testicles and reduce sperm production.

Medications: some medications, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can damage the testicles and reduce sperm production.

Lifestyle factors: such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and obesity, can reduce sperm quality and quantity.

Additional Conditions Impacting Male Fertility

Blockages:

If these occur in the male reproductive tract can prevent sperm from reaching the egg. Blockages can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Injuries
  • Infections
  • Birth defects

Hormonal problems:

Hormones play an important role in sperm production. If you have a hormonal imbalance, it can affect your sperm production and quality.

Genetic disorders:

Some genetic disorders can affect sperm production and quality.

Medical conditions:

Some medical conditions, such as diabetes or cancer, can affect sperm production and quality.

What Male Fertility Testing Is Available

Some of the most common diagnostic tests for male infertility include:

  • Semen analysis: This test measures the volume, count, motility, and morphology of sperm.
  • Hormone testing: This test measures the levels of hormones that are involved in sperm production.
  • Genetic testing: This test can identify genetic disorders that can affect sperm production.
  • Physical exam: This exam can check for any physical abnormalities that may be affecting sperm production.
  • Ultrasound: This test can be used to check for blockages in the reproductive tract.

Which Treatments Are Available?

There are a number of different treatment options available for male infertility. The most effective treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. Some of the most common treatment options include:

  • Fertility drugs

Fertility drugs can be used to stimulate sperm production and improve sperm quality. Surgery may be an option to correct blockages in the male reproductive tract. IVF is a procedure in which eggs are fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised eggs are then transferred to the woman’s womb.

  • Surgery

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct a blockage or other underlying issue that is affecting sperm production.

  • In vitro fertilisation (IVF)

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that can be used to help couples who are struggling to conceive. IVF involves removing eggs from the woman’s ovaries and fertilising them with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised eggs are then implanted in the woman’s uterus.

ABOUT PLAN YOUR BABY

It’s simple to undertake a comprehensive package of fertility tests with Plan Your Baby so there is no need to wait and wonder with same day results and online consultations with top fertility experts.

Plan Your Baby offers comprehensive 9-factor fertility testing for men usually only available through private healthcare clinics, but at affordable prices.

Our ‘Am I Fertile’ service will make sure you are informed about your fertility status and provide access to any treatment(s) you need to improve the likelihood of conception. 

Plan Your Baby believes that the combination of science-led solutions & digital technology will revolutionise fertility support.

Our mission is to provide effective, affordable, personalised and fast solutions for fertility related problems

  • 4 of 5 clients have had successful pregnancy outcomes
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  • same day results from our UKAS accredited partner labs
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