A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Male infertility: 3 things you should know

After trying to conceive a child for more than a year, experts suggest talking to your doctor about testing for infertility.

Male infertility is any health issue that lowers a man’s chances of getting his female partner pregnant. About 13 out of 100 couples can’t get pregnant, and in over a third of those cases, the problem is with the man.

Diagnosing male infertility

Young couple seeing a consultant - Male infertility

Talk to your provider if you are struggling with infertility.

Dr. Matthew Thomas, Marshfield Clinic Health System urologist, said if you are having struggles with infertility with your female partner, you should see an urologist, andrologist or male infertility specialist for consultation.

During a consultation, your provider goes over your health history and performs a physical exam to see if there are any initial signs. Previous surgery procedures like hernia repair, history of testicular torsion or other anatomical conditions can be culprits of infertility.

The most common cause for male infertility is a previous vasectomy or surgery on the groin,” Thomas said.

If everything seems normal after a physical, two semen analyses check the sperm for volume, amount, viability, motility and morphology. Thomas said this analysis should conclude findings that lead to treatment.

“If everything seems normal after the semen analysis, then it’s more likely to be female infertility,” he said.

Treating male infertility

Within Marshfield Clinic Health System, urologists can complete the process to find out what is causing infertility. If more complications arise, Thomas said he would refer to an andrologist, who performs procedures like electro-ejaculation, to help with invitro fertilization for pregnancy.

“But those cases are rare,” Thomas said. “Most of the time, an urologist can do the exam, physical and semen analysis, and only if there are complex issues, would you be referred to andrologist.”

Each individual is treated based on their finding. In some cases when the cause is a low sperm count, Thomas will include genetic testing to check for chromosome issues. The urologist also can provide treatments, such as surgery for ejaculatory duct obstruction or vasectomy reversals to help with fertility.

Preventing infertility

Thomas said studies have shown solicit drugs like marijuana can affect your fertility. Avoiding the use of those drugs will help. As far as your underwear affecting fertility, Thomas said he would only advise men with low sperm counts to choose boxers over briefs. Some research does show increased heat, like from a laptop, can affect sperm count or quality, but not enough to make major impacts on fertility.

“For people who have low sperm numbers or not very good morphology, I would tell them to make changes,” Thomas said. “But for most people, those things aren’t going to have enough of an effect to make a difference. If the semen analysis is abnormal, I would counsel more on what to do to prevent issues.”

Talk to your provider if you have health concerns with infertility.

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