Male Infertility Treatments
What you need to know about treatments for male infertility
Male infertility: New treatments, more pregnancies
The ultimate goal of male infertility treatment is to create a pregnancy.
Ideally, the cause of the infertility is reversible and then conception can
result from natural sex. Here are some common male infertility treatments.
- Varicoceles are repaired with surgery to block off the abnormal veins. This
seems to result in a significant improvement in fertility, although some
- Hormonal abnormalities can sometimes be treated with medicine or
- Obstructions in the sperm transport plumbing can sometimes be surgically
In the past, if the above methods didn’t work, it often meant lifelong male
infertility. Today, assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) offer powerful new
These high-tech and expensive male infertility treatments give sperm an
artificial boost to get into an egg. ARTs have made conception possible even
for men with very low or abnormal sperm.
First, sperm are collected either from ejaculated semen or by a needle from
the testicle. They are then processed and introduced to eggs by different
Intrauterine insemination (IUI.)At the time of ovulation, sperm are
injected directly up into the uterus. Medicines are usually given to the woman
first to increase the number of eggs she releases.
In-vitro fertilization (IVF.)Sperm are mixed with multiple eggs
collected from the woman in a “test tube” (actually just a plastic dish.).
Fertilized eggs are then placed in the uterus. IVF requires at least some
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI.)A single sperm is injected
through a tiny needle into an egg. The fertilized egg is then implanted in the
uterus. ICSI can be performed when sperm counts are extremely low or
Shaban says that by using some combination of ARTs for several months, “most
couples can expect a pregnancy between 40 to 50% of the time.”
Male infertility treatments to try at home
But are there things you can do on your own to maximize your fertility? Yes.
For one, don’t do things to hurt your chances to have viable sperm — marijuana,
cocaine, tobacco, and more than two alcoholic drinks a day harm sperm
production, says Ross. Men should also avoid hot baths and whirlpools, he says,
because the high temperatures slow down your sperm factory.
Taking testosterone, or any over-the-counter androgen like DHEA (for weight
training), can harm fertility, says Shaban. “People have had unnecessary
surgeries because they forgot to say they were on these medicines,” he
Of course, living right helps. According to Ross, “anything that improves
quality of health, like adequate sleep and nutrition,” should improve
Living with male infertility
When Steve S. of Joliet, Illinois was diagnosed with male infertility, he
felt profound disappointment. An extensive work-up showed Steve was born
without the vas deferens, the main sperm pipelines from the testicles. He and
his wife underwent needle sperm extraction and in vitro fertilization, but it
“I feel bad mostly because my wife wants a baby so bad and it is the one
thing I can't give her,” Steve says. “This has been a tough thing for the two
of us.” They are currently looking into adoption.
For some men, no male infertility treatments seem to help. Finding out that
you're infertile can be an unpleasant surprise, to say the least. “Many men
feel emotional stress with a diagnosis of infertility,” says Ross.
Shaban says that often, there is embarrassment. “Guys confuse libido and
potency with fertility. They get worried that they will be stereotyped.”
Ross reminds men that “most problems with [reproduction] do not affect their
ability to produce male hormones, their sexual function, or their
But even if things look bleak, the experts still have some hopeful advice:
Keep trying. As many as 25 to 35% of “infertile” couples will go on to
eventually have a child without any treatment.