Male factor infertility, also known simply as male infertility, is a failure to conceive because of a problem being experienced by a man. Although infertility was historically blamed on women, male factor infertility can actually be responsible for as many as 50% of cases of infertility, depending on the couple involved. When couples have difficulty conceiving, both partners must undergo testing to learn more about the cause of the problem, but checks for male infertility are often performed first because they are less invasive.
Men can have difficulty contributing to a successful pregnancy because of sperm disorders, anatomical abnormalities, and a wide variety of other problems. Screening can include laboratory analysis of sperm, genetic testing, and careful screening to identify items in a man's medical history that may be contributing to his infertility.
Men may have low sperm counts, low sperm motility, or immature sperm. Many genetic conditions can cause male factor infertility either by having an impact on sperm production or by creating sperm with genetic anomalies that make it impossible for them to fertilize an egg or impossible for a zygote to develop into a fetus. Environmental exposure to chemicals, a history of certain diseases like mumps, and a history of trauma to the testicles can also be involved in male factor infertility. Other men may have anomalies in the ducts that carry sperm and semen from the testes, resulting in an inability to deliver sperm during sexual activity.
Sometimes, male factor infertility can be treated to make it possible for a man to conceive naturally. In other cases, assisted reproduction may be recommended. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis can be used to select healthy eggs for implantation, and men with low sperm counts or motility issues may be able to help their partners conceive through in vitro fertilization, where the sperm are united with the egg by a fertility specialist.
In other instances, male factor infertility is not curable and a man is sterile. Couples in this situation can consider the use of a sperm donor to get pregnant or may want to consider adoption as an option. Every possible treatment will be explored and discussed before a man is declared sterile and it is important for men to be aware that male factor infertility is not necessarily their fault. While certain risk factors like exposure to nuclear materials can be identified and avoided, men have no control over the contents of their genomes or the diseases they may contract that render them sterile.