Sandstone Diagnostics

Greg Sommer
Cofounder, Chief Scientific Officer, Sandstone Diagnostics

1. What is the leading cause of male infertility? Who is most at risk?

A man’s fertility is closely tied to the quality of his sperm. The top contributors to poor sperm quality include health conditions, genetic abnormalities, environmental exposures and lifestyle behaviors that are known to impact sperm production. Approximately 15 percent of couples will experience infertility, and nearly half of the time the man is responsible.

2. What are some common misconceptions about male infertility?

Most people don’t realize that male infertility is very common, or that men’s sperm quality is not set in stone. Small changes to a man’s health and habits can have a major impact on his sperm production. 

Infertility is a scary word, one that puts pressure and stress on a couple who are looking to conceive. Often, the focus is usually on the woman and her struggle, putting her in the spotlight as "the problem."

Male infertility

This is an unfortunate misconception since, according to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, in approximately 40 percent of infertile couples the male partner is either the sole cause or a contributing cause of infertility.

For men, infertility means an inability to ejaculate or produce a sufficient amount of sperm. It's a disease that affects the reproductive tract and can hinder the conception of a child. However, having this diagnosis does not have to be the end of the conversation, as there are many things men can do to protect themselves from this diagnosis as well as improve their reproductive health overall.

Other risks

To avoid infertility, it's recommended that men keep their scrotal and testicular areas cool and comfortable. This means avoiding saunas, hot tubs, excessive biking and tight underpants, all of which can increase the body's temperature and lead to a decrease in semen. Smoking, drug use and excessive drinking can also negatively impact a healthy sperm growth.

Additionally, abnormal thyroid and prolactin hormone levels can also lead to male infertility, similar to women. If either is the case, it can typically be treated by doctors, and fertility can become a likely future possibility.

Chemotherapy and exposure to radiation may also damage the testicles, which is why doctors often recommend that men consider a sperm bank before undergoing these types of treatment. Although the testicles will often recover from these procedures, it may take years, and there is always the chance that it could render one permanently infertile. A look into a man's medical history will likely be a valuable asset in determining the cause of his infertility.

What you can do

When it comes to solutions to this problem, there are many choices, which usually boil down to treating the specific cause. Surgeries can be performed to repair any blockages in the reproductive tracts, and some medicines may help if the problem lies with a hormone imbalance or erectile dysfunction. In vitro fertilization or alternative insemination are also potential solutions.

A quick chat with a specialist will help determine the right course of action so you can be on your way to creating the family you want. But before then, you can relax knowing that your diagnosis is not the end of the road, but rather a roadblock to overcome.