Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Men's Health

Font Size

Male Infertility Treatments

What you need to know about treatments for male infertility

Common causes of male infertility continued...

In some cases, these problems can be reversed, but other times they can’t. An evaluation by a physician is the only way to sort it out.

Sometimes, making sperm isn't the problem. The problem is getting the sperm where they need to go. Men with this type of male infertility have normal sperm in the testicles. But the sperm in the semen are either abnormal, very low in number, or not there at all. Causes of this kind of infertility include:

  • Retrograde ejaculation. In this condition, semen ejaculates backwards into the bladder instead of out the penis. Usually previous surgery is the cause.
  • Absence of the main sperm pipeline known as the vas deferens. This condition is a genetic problem.
  • Obstruction. An obstruction can occur anywhere in the plumbing between the testicles and the penis.
  • Anti-sperm antibodies. Antibodies can abnormally attack a man's own sperm on their way to the egg.

Up to 25% of infertile men have idiopathic infertility. That means they have abnormal or low sperm counts for no identifiable reason.

Male infertility tests: Going under the microscope

Identifying the cause of a man's infertility is as much an art as a science. “The first step is an evaluation by a physician specializing in male infertility,” says Stephen Shaban, MD, a urologist specializing in male reproductive medicine and microsurgery in Raleigh, North Carolina. Experts differ in their approach, but here are some of the tests you can expect:

 

  • Sperm and semen analysis. They provide a private room (and magazines). You provide a fresh sample of semen. Experts then assess your sperm count, their shape, movement, and other variables.
    “Generally, a higher number of normal-shaped sperm means higher fertility,” says Shaban. But exceptions are common. Many men with low sperm counts or abnormal semen are still fertile. And about 15% of infertile men have normal semen and plenty of normal sperm.
    Surprisingly, the complete absence of sperm in the semen (a condition known as azoospermia), can be a good thing. Ross says it might suggest a blockage in the “plumbing” that can be corrected with surgery.
  • Physical examination. A thorough physical exam can detect varicocele and give clues to hormone problems. This should ideally be performed by a urologist.
  • Hormone evaluation. Testosterone and multiple hormones made in the brain control sperm production. However, hormones are not the main problem in 97% of infertile men.
  • Testicular biopsy. This is done for men with very low or no sperm in their semen. A needle biopsy of the testicle can show whether a man is making healthy sperm. If abundant good sperm are found in the testicle, there's likely a blockage somewhere.
  • Genetic testing. Genetic tests can identify specific obstacles to fertility and problems with sperm. Experts differ as to when genetic tests should be done.

 

Today on WebMD

Life Cycle of a Penis
Slideshow
Preacher Curl
Slideshow
 
testosterone molecule
Article
Xray of foot highlighting gout
Slideshow
 
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Slideshow
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Quiz
 
Man taking blood pressure
Slideshow
doctor holding syringe
Slideshow
 
Condom Quiz
Quiz
thumbnail_angry_couple_in_bed
Slideshow
 
man running
Quiz
older couple in bed
Video