Women have received a bad rap. The assumption that most problems associated with the difficulty to conceive and have a baby is the fault of the female partner. However, let the truth be told, 1\3 are a result of female problems, 1\3 are a male issue, and 1\3 are linked to both male and female problems.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that two-thirds of couples treated are ultimately able to conceive.
Part of the issue today is that many women are waiting much later in life to have children. As women get older they’re going to see more problems trying to conceive. Men are capable of fathering children later in life, certainly into their 40s and 50s. They don’t have the same fertility issues that women have at that age. That is, the biologic clock of men ticks longer than for women.
Common causes of men’s infertility can be hormonal problems, injuries, illness, medications, or a previous vasectomy. Lifestyle issues like smoking and alcohol use may affect sperm production, but are secondary factors.
A common cause of infertility in men is varicocele, an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum that heats the testicles, affecting the number and shape of sperm. A varicocle is a common problem and up to 30 percent of all men have a varicocele.
Varicocele can develop in adolescence, and may be discovered by a pediatrician. Because of the long-term effects that can lead to infertility, a pediatric surgeon or urologist may recommend a procedure to correct the problem, depending on the severity. The purpose of the surgery is to seal off the affected vein and route blood flow into normal veins.
Another cause of male infertility is vasectomy. Men are having a vasectomy, which is a reasonably permanent form of sterilization at an earlier age, and then have a change of heart when they get divorced and then marry a younger partner and want to have children and start a second family. A vasectomy reversal is now quite successful and can be done as an outpatient in an ambulatory treatment center.
More recently, the public has been bombarded with advertisements for medications aimed at correcting low testosterone or low T. These popular medications for hormone replacement for low testosterone may affect a man’s future fertility. Men should talk with their doctors about medications if they are trying or may be planning to achieve a pregnancy in the future.
Bottom line: Infertility is just as much a man’s problem as it is for the woman. Help is available and the place to start is a semen examination to be sure that the man has all the ammunition he needs to father a child.