Male Infertility

Infertility is the inability of a man and a woman to conceive a child after one year of unprotected intercourse. Infertility affects 10-15% of couples. It can be caused by certain medical conditions and/or lifestyle habits on the part of the woman, the man, or both. As many as one-third of infertility cases are due to male factors alone, and male factors contribute to the problem in about half of all cases. Therefore, both partners should be evaluated simultaneously. Sometimes no cause can be found. Male infertility often is treatable with surgery, medication, hormone therapy, fertilization procedures, or lifestyle changes. Male infertility should not be confused with erectile dysfunction, which is the inability to get or keep an erection long enough for sex and usually is treatable.

Although a man’s age can affect fertility – the quality of sperm may diminish after age 40 – this varies greatly depending on the individual and is much less of a factor than for women, whose fertility declines rapidly in their mid-30s. When the issue is due to male factors, it’s often a problem with sperm production or function. The most common causes of male infertility include:

  • Physical problems with the testicles (the organs that produce sperm)
  • Varicocele, a condition that causes the veins of the scrotum to dilate (widen)
  • Blockages in the ducts that carry sperm
  • Hormone problems, including those caused by testosterone replacement therapy
  • A history of high fevers or mumps
  • Genetic disorders, usually unique to the individual man rather than being inherited
  • Certain medical conditions and treatments, including cystic fibrosis, cancer, and chemotherapy
  • Lifestyle factors, such as alcohol/drug use and smoking
  • Environmental factors, such as exposure to certain toxins

UAB Medicine’s nationally recognized physicians have years of experience in diagnosing and treating both male and female infertility. We treat infertility with a team approach that includes a urologist, a reproductive endocrinologist, specialized nurses, and laboratory scientists. A variety of conventional treatments are available, including corrective microsurgery. For those who do not have a condition that can be treated, procedures such as intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be used to help a couple get pregnant. Our fertility experts will determine a treatment plan that is best suited for each individual man and his partner. As a major center for research, UAB Medicine continues to investigate new advances in fertility treatment aimed at increasing the chances of conceiving healthy babies.

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