When we start having issues with our fertility, the first person we might consult will be our Gynecologist. We assume that we are the ones with possible issues impeding us getting pregnant and go down the path to correcting what might be ailing us. However, in many cases, couples facing infertility might not only be faced with female fertility factors but with male ones as well.
In fact, in some cases, the female isn’t the one with the issue at all…her partner is. Let’s explore further what is known as Male Factor Infertility.
Most Common Types of Male Infertility
As described by the Mayo Clinic, it’s estimated that this condition commonly affects 15 percent of couples worldwide and that male factor is found in 40-50% of infertility cases.
The most common type of male infertility is idiopathic infertility, which is characterized by the presence of one or more abnormal semen parameters with no identifiable cause. Another form of male factor infertility is varicocele, which results in the enlargement of one of the spermatic veins and, in as high as 78 – 93 percent of cases diagnosed as varicocele, the malformed vein is usually located on the left side.
Primary Causes of Male Infertility
Pre-testicular factors are associated with poor hormones and a man’s poor physical health. For instance, being obese boosts your risk of getting hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, which can make a man infertile by causing leptin insensitivity in the hypothalamus, eventually changing the releasing process of gonadotropin hormones. Similarly, hypogonadotropic hypogonadism can also occur due to drugs, alcohol, intense bicycle and horse riding, genetic abnormalities, and different medicines and medical treatment such as anabolic steroids, chemotherapy and the drug-spironolactone, which actually diminishes sperm motility.
Smoking has been considered the primary cause in around 30 percent of male infertility cases due to the scientific research showing that tobacco products kill potential sperm cells in men.
Sometimes, a man will inherit damaged DNA, which eventually will lead to sperm damage causing infertility among men. As these men age, this inherited dysfunction increases the risk of additional sperm damage. In some cases, DNA damage to sperm has also been attributed to vasectomies having been performed on the man in the past. Some vasectomies are touted as being reversible (and in some cases they are) but what the findings show is that reversibility can be attributed mostly to sperm count. This does not take into consideration sperm quality and motility (how quickly the sperm travels).
Poor diet has also been a major cause of male infertility and nutrition heavily influences the strength of sperm. According to scientific research, the quality and quantity of sperm can easily become affected by poor eating habits. Such foods as Red meat and processed food items are often associated with affecting the quality and quantity of mens’ sperm. Research suggests that a healthy sperm count requires grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and fish intake as part of your regular diet.
Other Causes of Male Infertility
Sperm Production Problems
Various causes of sperm production problems include infections, damaging effects caused by radiation, drug abuse and chemical dependency, undescended testes and torsion (twisting of the testes).
Different prostate issues, vas deferens absence (typically able to create sperm but are unable to transport them appropriately. The semen does not contain sperm, leading to a condition known as azoospermia), and vasectomies are the most common causes of sperm blockage.
Erection and Ejaculation Problems
Unable to ejaculate, premature ejaculation, retrograde ejaculation, inability to get an erection (Erectile dysfunction), spinal cord injury, sudden nerve damage, and prostate issues are the most common reasons associated with erection and ejaculation among men.
Hormonal issues for male infertility include issues in pituitary tumors, lack of LH/FSH by birth, anabolic steroid abuse, etc.
Vasectomy and epididymis infection are the most common factors associated with sperm antibodies, which leads to male infertility.
How Can a Healthy Diet Improve Sperm Count?
Getting to Healthy Weight
Being obese is the most common cause of male infertility as around 50% of men who are infertile have a low sperm count due to their excessive weight and lower testosterone levels. It is often claimed that overweight men are 42 percent more likely to have relatively lower sperm motility than that of other men who are physically fit and maintain their weight in the healthy range.
The Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol addiction is one of the most common factors associated with a lower sperm count. According to varying scientific research conducted on measuring the effects of alcohol addiction on male fertilization, heavy consumption of hard liquor, beer and wine are directly associated with diminished testosterone levels and low sperm motility. It also increases the risk of having an abnormal sperm count.
Even men who drink coffee on a daily basis are putting themselves at risk of developing sperm damage, thereby causing infertility or even (in the most severe cases) defects and mutations in a fertilized embryo. It is often recommended that men should be drinking no more than two cups of coffee daily especially when trying to conceive.
Other healthy diets which can improve male fertility include:
- Low sugar
- Low carb intake
- Limiting junk and processed food items
- Limiting the intake of soy products
- Focusing on eating less red meat, more fish, fresh fruits and vegetables
- Adding supplements to their daily intake
When trying to conceive, it’s always a good practice for both partners to make the efforts necessary to achieve success. Not only will it improve the health of both parties but it makes it a camaraderie instead of an isolating undertaking by just the woman in the relationship.