Many men can go years without knowing infertility is present. Other times, symptoms such as problems with sexual function, pain or swelling in the testicles, and abnormal breast growth can indicate a problem sooner. When attempts at conception have been unsuccessful after 12 months or less if the woman is older, men should investigate the cause further. Although there are many reasons for an inability to conceive, including poor timing of intercourse, the following 3 health problems may help explain why pregnancy hasn’t happened yet.
On average, 10-15 men out of every 100 will develop a varicocele. The condition occurs when veins inside the scrotum become enlarged. Such growth can cause the testes to overheat, which can lower sperm production and negatively affect fertility. Varicoceles can be treated with surgery. The outpatient procedure takes about 2-3 hours, and recovery is relatively quick. Approximately 3-4 months after surgery, a semen analysis can be performed to confirm the procedure fixed the problem and that sperm count has returned to an average level.
For some men, current or past infections can negatively affect sperm production or sperm health. Sometimes, scarring from an infection can cause a blockage, prohibiting efficient sperm transport. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and chlamydia are common culprits. Good sexual health is important regardless of plans for pregnancy, so all men should check for STIs periodically.
3. Undescended testicles
During the third trimester of fetal development, the testicles should naturally descend. However, for about 2% of male infants, the testicles do not move into the proper position during pregnancy. Undescended testicles most commonly affect babies born prematurely. After birth, about 20% of cases will naturally correct, with the testicles dropping in the first 6 months of life. For the other 80% of cases, surgery is required to fix the problem. Undescended testicles are 3-5 degrees warmer than usual, which can negatively affect sperm production and cause infertility.
Your next steps
Depending on the identified health issue, men should work with a doctor to correct the problem and improve fertility. In the case of varicocele or undescended testes, surgery may be required. For infections, testing and proper treatment are pivotal. In addition to correcting the underlying health problem, men should focus on a healthy lifestyle while trying to conceive (TTC), including exercising, limiting alcohol, and eating a healthy diet.
Correcting male infertility is possible
When men discover an underlying health condition as the cause of infertility, steps can be taken to correct the issue. Once fixed, many males go on to successfully father children. A proactive approach to health is the best idea when trying to get a partner pregnant.