Male Infertility Q&A
What is male factor infertility?
Male factor infertility (MFI) refers to problems with either the quality or quantity of male sperm. Since sperm account only for 2-5% of the total volume of semen produced in an ejaculation, there’s no particular sign that anything is wrong, even if the body stops producing sperm. Yet there are several conditions that may occur that prevents a man’s sperm from fertilizing an egg.
What are the reasons for MFI?
There are several common causes for conception breakdown on the male side.
- DNA fragmentation – Though sperm with genetic mutations can still fertilize an egg, these problems are responsible for more than 60% of the miscarriages.
- Immunological disorders – The subsystem within a man’s body that manufactures sperm is isolated from the rest of the body, since his own immune system may attack sperm and break it down. When there’s a breakdown in this isolation system, sperm may be exposed to antibodies.
- Low count – Normal sperm production accounts for approximately 20 million sperm in a milliliter of semen. When production is low, there simply may not be enough sperm to beat the odds for conception. The reasons for the low counts may be as complex as a congenital blockage, or as simple as snug underwear keeping the sperm too warm.
- Low motility – Sperm may have trouble navigating the woman’s reproductive tract, failing to get from cervix to fallopian tubes. This may result from too slow sperm or sperm wandering “off course.” In both cases, the sperm die before fertilization can take place.
- Poor Morphology – Simply, sperm may be defective or deformed. There are 3 sections to every sperm, each with its own job. When any 1 section behaves abnormally, it may prevent fertilization.
What can be done about MFI?
In some cases, urological treatment may improve sperm count. In others, where sperm count or quality remains weak, intrauterine insemination techniques, with or without ovarian stimulation, may be sufficient. In extreme cases, in vitro fertilization may be the best option.