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Male Infertility

Male infertility is usually caused by problems that affect either sperm production or sperm transport. Through medical testing, the doctor may be able to find the cause of the problem.

About two-thirds of infertile men have a problem with making sperm in the testes. Either low numbers of sperm are made and/or the sperm that are made do not work properly.

Sperm transport problems are found in about one in every five infertile men, including men who have had a vasectomy but now wish to have more children. Blockages (often referred to as obstructions) in the tubes leading sperm away from the testes to the penis can cause a complete lack of sperm in the ejaculated semen.

Other less common causes of infertility include: sexual problems that affect whether semen is able to enter the woman’s vagina for fertilization to take place (one in 100 infertile couples); low levels of hormones made in the pituitary gland that act on the testes (one in 100 infertile men); and sperm antibodies (found in one in 16 infertile men). In most men sperm antibodies will not affect the chance of a pregnancy but in some men sperm antibodies reduce fertility.

Symptom  Causes
Sperm production problems
  • Chromosomal or genetic causes
  • Undescended testes (failure of
  • the testes to descend at birth)
  • Infections
  • Torsion (twisting of the testis in scrotum)
  • Varicocele (varicose veins of the testes)
  • Medicines and chemicals
  • Radiation damage
  • Unknown cause
Blockage of sperm transport
  • Infections
  • Prostate-related problems
  • Absence of vas deferens
  • Vasectomy
Sexual problems
(erection and ejaculation problems)
  • Retrograde and premature ejaculation
  • Failure of ejaculation
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infrequent intercourse
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Prostate surgery
  • Damage to nerves
  • Some medicines
Hormonal problems
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Congenital lack of LH/FSH (pituitary problem from birth)
  • Anabolic (androgenic) steroid abuse
Sperm antibodies
  • Vasectomy