Most discussions of infertility center around women. If you can’t have babies, it must be the lady’s fault, right? Incorrect. Men can have equal difficulties in producing offspring, whether because there’s an issue with the production of enough sperm (some men have a drop in sperm count after suffering mumps, for example) or with the method of delivering it to the ovaries in the first place. So if you’re trying to conceive with a male partner and not getting anywhere, knowing the possible signs of male infertility might help you out.
I have personal experience with this one; my parents had huge difficulties conceiving my older brother, and both of them had to undergo a massive battery of tests to see what the issue might be. But education about male fertility wasn’t great at the time, so when they were asked to provide a sperm sample from home to test my dad’s sperm count, my mom got the vial, put it in her handbag, and proceeded to go shopping in 85° heat, before dropping it off to be tested. Unsurprisingly, all the sperm were dead, which led to a panicked phone call from the clinic before the truth was discovered. Knowing how male fertility works, and what the signs are, may save you from embarrassing revelations on the phone to a very puzzled doctor.
These aren’t the only signs of male infertility or difficulty conceiving, but they’re some of the symptoms that should be concerning if you’re trying to get yourself knocked up. If any of these pop up, get to a doctor to see what’s going on.
1. Problems With Ejaculation And Orgasm
Ejaculation disorders are caused by a huge variety of things, as it happens. There’s a phenomenon called retrograde ejaculation, where semen actually goes backward into the bladder instead of outward; problems may be being caused by certain medications, like anti-psychotics; and neural conditions and problems with the spinal cord might have a role in the difficulty. But either way, they need to be checked out, because sperm plays rather a vital role in the whole baby-making deal.
2. Varicocele Of The Testicles
It’s supposed to occur in 10-15 percent of men, and can be solved with surgical intervention, though the thought may not be entirely pleasant: the veins can either be clamped, or a small coil inserted to prevent blood from entering them.
If you have any kind of lump or problem with your testicles, though, it’s worth getting checked out, because it may prove to be an impediment to fertility. A blocked tube in the testicle may occur after surgery or a traumatic impact, STDS may have scarred the sperm ducts, and cancer or infectionsmay have played havoc with their normal functioning. If a sign of swelling or pain occurs, it needs to be checked out immediately.
3. A Low Sperm Count
This is one of those symptoms that doesn’t show up without a diagnostic test, but it’s also not an uncomplicated explanation. Many things can cause sperm counts to plummet; the Mayo Clinic lists many, from infections in the testicles to high levels of sperm-attacking antibodies, environmental exposure to toxins, imbalanced hormone levels, and previous experience of STDs. Some of these can be solved, while others require a longer, harder road.
4. An Inability To Smell
This is a fascinating one, and it’s actually associated with a genetic disorder called Kallman’s syndrome. It happens in both men and women, and is basically a puberty disorder; it’s exceptionally rare, but it means that puberty never fully starts or finishes. It traces back to pre-birth, where gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons don’t take their normal journey from the olfactory area to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus during fetal development. This leads to hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, or the malfunction of the testicles. A strange side-effect is the complete absence, in up to half of sufferers, of a sense of smell.
Some people will be well-aware they have Kallman’s, but others won’t; signs in men include “decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, decreased muscle strength, and diminished aggressiveness and drive,” according to Medscape.And then there’s the absence of smell, which happens because the smelling part of the brain hasn’t fully or properly developed.
5. Very Small Testicles
The news for people with Klinefelter’s who’d like to conceive is a bit mixed. If viable sperm is found in the testes, it can be extracted for fertilization, and some varieties of Klinefelter’s can actually be fertile. If you’re diagnosed and treated with testosterone relatively young, the story seems fairly positive, but you’ll likely be referred to a genetic counselor in infertility if this is your issue when you’re trying to have a kid.