Kemi Ailoje

The socio-cultural setting has before now focused on the female fertility, in the past infertility investigation began and ended with the evaluation of the female alone. It was not uncommon for a man to divorce not one, but several wives under the mistaken and chauvinistic belief that women alone were responsible for the inability to bear children. Needless to say such men did not realise that as far as reproduction was concerned the popular slogan “it takes two to tangle” is highly applicable. In view of this fact it is advised that couples trying for babies should visit the physician together, subject themselves to thorough investigation as prescribed by the specialist and take to appropriate prescribed management in order to shorten and facilitate their journey to successful parenthood. This week we are going to be looking at this very important topic: What Men Need To Know About Their Fertility.

Male infertility can be defined as the inability of a male to cause pregnancy in a fertile female. It accounts for 40-50 per cent of infertility.

It is usually caused by problems that affect either the sperm production which is related to both the sperm count and sperm quality or the sperm transport. Through medical testing, the doctor may be able to find the cause of the problem. Statistics however has shown that about two thirds of infertile men have a problem with making sperm in the testes.

How common is male infertility?
Male Infertility is a wide spread problem. In about 1 in 5 infertile couples, the problem lies solely with the male partner. It is also estimated that 1 in 20 men have some kind of infertility problem with low number of sperm in their ejaculate, however only about 1 in 100 men have no sperm in their ejaculate.

What are the common causes of male infertility?
The root cause of a man’s infertility may not be easy to establish for up to 50 per cent of men diagnosed with male factor infertility. The specific causes remain unknown generally. Male infertility problems are often unclear, most of the treatment option remains the same whatever the underlying causes maybe.

Some of the most common causes include:

Medical causes
• Varicocele: this means that the veins that should drain the testicles are swollen. It is the most common cause of reversible infertility in men.
• Chromosomal defects: Inherited disorders such as klinefelter in which the man is born with XXY chromosome instead of XY.
• Hormone disorders
• Trauma/Injury to the testes/ groin area
• Previous surgeries such as hernia repair or vasectomy
• Previous infection especially Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs), urinary tract infection or a severe mumps infection after puberty
• Certain medications: especially if abused over time can impair sperm production and decrease male fertility

• History of undescended testis
• Prior vasectomy or major abdominal /pelvic surgery
• Taking certain medication or undergoing medical treatment such as surgery or radiation used for cancer treatment
• Born with a fertility disorder or having a first degree relative with a fertility disorder
• Having medical conditions, including tumors and chronic illnesses, such as sickle cell disease etc.

Environmental causes
Overexposure to certain environmental elements such as heat, toxins and chemical can reduce sperm production and function

• Industrial chemicals: Extended exposure to benzene, pesticides, herbicides, organic solvent, painting materials and lead.
• Heavy metals exposure
• Radiations or x-rays
• Overheating the testicles such as sitting for long periods, wearing tight clothing and working on a laptop computer for long stretches of time, long distance travels, prolonged sauna and steam baths may increase the temperature of your scrotum

Healthy lifestyle and other causes
• Illicit drug use: Most drugs taken to stimulate muscle strength and growth can cause the testicle to shrink. Use of cocaine and marijuana may temporarily reduce the number and quality of sperm
• Alcohol intake: Drinking excessive alcohol can lower testosterone level, cause erectile dysfunction and decrease sperm production
• Tobacco smoking: Men who smoke tend to have lower sperm count than those who don’t including the passive smoker (those who inhale the smoke from smokers)
• Emotional stress: This interferes with certain hormones needed in sperm production.
• Overweight/Obesity: Can impair fertility directly by impacting sperm themselves and indirectly by causing hormonal changes that reduce male fertility.
• Certain occupations: Such as welding, long distant truck drivers may increase the risk for male infertility.

What are the symptoms of male infertility?
In most cases there are no obvious signs of male infertility. However poorerection (erectile dysfunction) and ejaculation may sometimes be associated with male infertility. The quantity and appearance of the ejaculated semen generally appears normal to the naked eyes but medical test are needed to be done to find out if the man is infertile.

The under listed signs may indicate male infertility:
Changes in sexual desire
Testicular pain or swelling
Small firm testicles
Problem maintaining erection
Issues with ejaculation