Men's conception difficulties

Approximately one in six couples will have difficulties conceiving
Approximately one in six couples will have difficulties conceiving 

Approximately one in six couples will have difficulties conceiving. Causes of conception difficulties and infertility in men can include:

Causes of conception difficulties and infertility in men can include:

  • Testicular failure
  • Absent, deformed or damaged Testicles
  • Blockage of the Vas Deferens
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Social / environmental poisons
  • Lack of essential nutrients
  • Low sperm count
  • Hormonal problems
  • Immunological problems 


Testicular failure 
This is a rare condition characterised by the production of semen that contains no sperm. It is difficult to determine the cause of testicular failure and there are a number of possibilities, including chromosomal problems, testes that didn't descend properly, injury to the testes, or contracting mumps as an adult.

Conception
Conception 

Absent, deformed or damaged testicles
Absent, small or enlarged testes can all contribute to male infertility. Testes are rarely absent, but sometimes they fail to descend. Small testes may be a symptom of a past illness, developmental problems or an injury. Enlargement of the testes can raise their temperature and inhibit sperm production. This may be due to a hydrocele (excess of lubricating fluid around the testes) or a varicocele (enlargement of the veins around the testes).

There are also factors that can damage chromosomal material in sperm or reduce the amount or motility of sperm. These include infections (including Sexually Transmitted Disease's), mumps during adolescence or early adult life, radiation treatment, drugs for cancer or Crohn's disease, environmental pollutants (lead, mercury, pesticides) and cancer of the testicles.

Blockage of the Vas Deferens
Blockage of the tubes / ducts that connect the testicles to the base of the seminal vesicles and bladder may be present at birth or can be the result of an infection such as gonorrhoea or previous vasectomy. This condition will result in low numbers of sperm or no sperm at all in the ejaculate. Sperm carrying ducts can also be distorted as they reach the area of the prostate gland, resulting in some or all of the ejaculate passing into the bladder.

Chronic illnesses
Sperm counts fall in men who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, disease of the nervous system or pituitary gland, chronic infections, unexplained fever or an under-active thyroid gland.

Social / environmental poisons
As with females, alcohol and cigarettes may contribute to reduced fertility. Recreational drugs and environmental pollutants such as lead, cadmium, mercury, pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals can also play a part.

For the best possible outcome for you and your baby, you should avoid exposure to social and environmental poisons wherever possible prior to and during pregnancy.

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Lack of essential nutrients
Some nutrients appear to be especially important to sperm production and testosterone levels. These include zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin B. Ensuring your diet is adequate is easy to do. Prior to and while trying for a baby you should ensure that you eat a balanced and nutritious diet. If you feel you need multi-vitamin and mineral supplements, speak to your doctor.

Low sperm count
Sperm abnormalities and low sperm count may be due to a number of factors, including hormonal problems, immunological factors, exposure to considerable heat (caused by occupation, severe obesity or tight underwear and trousers), environmental factors, and maybe even stress. Low sperm count does not necessarily mean infertility, as many man with a low sperm count simply take longer than normal to achieve conception, however when there are few sperm the majority tend to be abnormal or have poor motility.

Hormonal problems
The pituitary gland produces testes-stimulating hormones and follicle-stimulating hormones, both of which are essential for healthy sperm creation. If the pituitary gland is not releasing enough of these hormones, the ability to produce sperm is impaired. Sperm production is also influenced by incorrect functioning of the thyroid and adrenal glands.

Immunological problems
Sometimes the immune system of an infertile man can be producing antibodies that interpret his sperm as foreign and actively attack it. This problem can be detected by the presence of white blood cells in the semen and is usually due to an injury or infection.

Visit women's conception difficulties for more information or speak to other EB members about difficulties in conceiving.