What Causes Male Infertility?

As we have stated in previous blogs, infertility is most commonly thought of as a female problem. When in reality, men are equally likely to receive this diagnosis. The causes of female infertility are well identified (endometriosis, PCOS, low ovarian reserve, etc.), but what causes male infertility? In honor of National Men’s Health Month, we will take a closer look at the subject.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, there are four main causes of infertility in men:

  1. Hypothalamic or pituitary gland disorder (1-2%)
  2. Gonad disorder (30-40%)
  3. Sperm transport disorder (10-20%)
  4. Unknown causes (40-50%)

As you can see, more research needs to be performed on this particular topic, as the majority of male infertility cases are still being given an unknown diagnosis. However, doctors and researchers are in agreement that most cases are due to problems with sperm motility, morphology, or low numbers.

So what can harm sperm cells or decrease their numbers? Many different medical causes could contribute. This includes, but is not limited to, pre-existing genetic conditions, history of STIs, injury, surgeries, or hormone and chromosomal disorders.

Environmental factors may also contribute to infertility in men. Overexposure to certain environmental elements such as heat, toxins, and chemicals can reduce sperm production or sperm function. Specific causes include exposure to industrial chemicals, heavy metals, and radiation or X-rays. It is also being suggested that exposure from heat (for example, from a laptop) or even wearing tight, restrictive clothing for long periods of time may also be a contributing factor (just say no to tighty-whities!). However, studies on this are limited and inconclusive.

Health and lifestyles choices also affect sperm production and quality. Drug, alcohol, and tobacco have been shown to have an adverse effect, as well as emotional stress and weight of the man.

What can be done to prevent male infertility? According to medical professionals, there are simple preventative measures that can be done.

  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and drugs
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxins
  • Reduce stress

Embryo adoption also allows couples to side-step male infertility and give birth to their adopted child. To learn more about embryo adoption and donation, visit EmbryoAdoption.org.