Infertility is a common problem for many people assigned male at birth (AMAB). Conception is a complicated process, and there are many obstacles. Fortunately, if you have male infertility, you may be able to have a biological child with your partner. Treatments that can increase your chances of conception are available.
Infertility can concern both male and female individuals. Specifically, male infertility is a condition that affects people assigned male at birth (AMAB), and that interferes with the ability of their reproductive system to impregnate a person assigned female at birth (AFAB).
If you have male infertility, it means you have repeated unprotected sexual intercourse for over a year but your AFAB partner doesn’t get pregnant.
Infertility affects 186 million people worldwide, and the male partner is the cause in about half of the cases. Some studies show that male infertility affects about 10% to 15% of males in the United States who are trying to conceive.
No, it isn’t easy to conceive. The human species is considered a species with low reproductive capacity. A fertile and young couple, for every month of free intercourse, has only a 20-25% chance of conceiving.
For the pregnancy to continue to full term (39 to 40 weeks and six days), the embryo must be healthy, and the female’s hormonal environment must be adequate enough for the embryo to develop. Infertility can happen if something affects just one of these factors.
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The primary symptom of male infertility is being unable to have a biological child. But male infertility can also lead to many psychological and emotional symptoms, including feelings of:
If you or your partner experiences any of these feelings, it’s a good idea to talk to a therapist or psychiatrist.
Sometimes, male infertility can be associated with a low production of testosterone from the testicles. In this case, symptoms such as tiredness, impotence, depression, weight gain and apathy may occur. If you or your partner experiences these symptoms, talking to a urologist who specializes in male infertility or a reproductive endocrinologist can help.
Many biological and environmental factors can cause male infertility. These include:
Any person AMAB may have infertility. But your chances of having male infertility may be higher if you:
Semen is the whitish-gray liquid that releases from a penis upon orgasm (ejaculation). Semen contains sperm, as well as fluids that help deposit sperm toward the back of the vagina, and proteins, vitamins and minerals that help nourish the sperm.
Typically, semen is thick and sticky. Runny or watery semen may indicate a low sperm count, which may cause male infertility.
A PCP will perform a complete physical examination to help determine your overall health and identify any physical problems that may affect your fertility. They may also ask you and your partner questions about your sexual habits and health history, including:
The provider may order tests if the physical exam and review of your health history don’t indicate any apparent cause for male infertility.
A semen analysis is one of the primary tests healthcare providers use to help diagnose male infertility. It’s a lab test of a semen sample that examines the volume and quality of your sperm.
Other tests that a provider may order to help identify or rule out the cause of male infertility may include:
Yes, many different treatment options can reverse male infertility. Depending on the cause, your treatment may include:
You may be able to increase the production of healthy sperm by making certain lifestyle changes, including:
Hormone therapy can regulate hormone levels that are too high or low and affect your sperm quality. You may also need to stop using, or find alternatives to, certain medications, including:
Surgical treatments may include:
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures involve removing an egg from your partner’s ovaries and combining it with your sperm in a lab.
In most cases, male infertility requires treatment.
You can reduce your risk of male infertility by:
Talk to a healthcare provider about other risk factors and how you can reduce your risk.
Just because you have male infertility, it doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to have a biological child. Treatment options are available. You and your partner can increase your chances of conception by talking to a healthcare provider. But the success rates depend on many factors, including the cause of male infertility, your age and your partner’s age.
Male infertility isn’t easy. Many people feel uncomfortable talking to their partners or a healthcare provider about it. Be kind to yourself and your partner. Talking to a therapist or finding a support group may help you cope with your feelings.
Some studies suggest that certain foods and drinks may affect your sperm quality, including:
You may benefit from a more balanced diet that incorporates:
See a healthcare provider if you and your partner haven’t been able to get pregnant after a year of trying. Schedule an appointment with a therapist if you have feelings of depression, grief or inadequacy.
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
The best way to determine the health of your sperm is to get a semen analysis from a fertility clinic or lab.
Over-the-counter (OTC) at-home semen analysis tests are available to purchase. However, these products aren’t as thorough and may not be as effective as a lab test.
There aren’t any obvious signs of unhealthy sperm. The only way to accurately determine the health of your sperm is to get a semen analysis.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Male infertility can be very challenging. It affects up to 15% of males in the United States who are attempting to have a biological child. But because of modern technology, many couples have the potential to conceive a biological child. Talk to a healthcare provider if your partner can’t get pregnant after a year of trying. Lifestyle changes may be able to prevent infertility, and surgeries and procedures can treat the causes.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/25/2024.
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