Did you know there is a equal chance that male factor infertility may be the cause of a couple’s struggle to achieve pregnancy? If you have been trying to conceive for more than a year, you may want to get male fertility testing done. Sperm counts are easy to do and are the first step in determining if there may be male factor infertility.
What Causes Male Infertility?
Risk factors for infertility in men are connected. Hormonal imbalances may be caused by another health related issue such as diabetes. Add poor diet and lifestyle habits into the equation and you have a cascade of issues contributing to low sperm count and health. All of our body systems are intricately connected; they all rely on the other to function in harmony, which directly impacts the health of sperm. The genetic material in sperm makes up half of your future child.
Poor diet and lifestyle choices are the most common reason for hormonal imbalance and low sperm count and health. Signs of hormonal imbalance in men are low libido, abnormal hair growth, and erectile dysfunction. Other health related problems can contribute also.
Hormones that are most commonly out-of-balance in men:
What causes hormonal imbalance?
- Stress – Stress can have a huge impact on hormonal balance.
- Pesticides and hormones in foods – Pesticides found on produce and the hormones added to dairy and meat have a HUGE effect on men’s hormonal balance. Pesticides mimic estrogens in he body while the added hormones to meat and dairy are hormones (like estrogen) that you do not want in your system.
- Soy foods – Soy foods mimic estrogens in the body also. As a man, these xenohormones can match up with the receptor sites that testosterone is supposed to go to and create hormonal havoc.
- Alcohol – Excessive consumption of hops has been shown to increase estrogen levels in men. Alcohol is also broken down into sugars, which may in turn be stored as body fat. Body fat has been shown to produce estrogen; the more body fat you have the more estrogen produced in the body. A recent study showed that men who drink alcohol regularly also have lower sperm motility and concentration.
- Plastics – When plastics are heated they release xenohormones which mimic estrogen in the body.
- Prior history of health issues – (see below)
Health Related Factors and Problems that Affect Male Reproduction Function
Hyperthyroidism in Men
- Abnormal enlargement of the mammary glands in males
- Loss of libido
Hypothyroidism in Men
Hypothyroidism happens in women more often than men.
- Decreased libido in men; creates impairment of testicular testosterone synthesis
- Abnormal enlargement of the mammary glands in men
Poor Adrenal Health
The adrenals secrete sex steroids, androgens DHEA (precursor to estrogen), testosterone, androstenedione and some estrogen/progesterone. These supplement sex hormones secreted by the gonads (testes and ovaries). the adrenals are very sensitive to stress ad over time may become sluggish, contributing to lowered function and immunity.
Very low body weight
Body may contribute to hormonal imbalance.
Obesity in men lowers testosterone levels. Chronic low levels of testosterone affect how the testes function, which causes all hormones produced by them to be out of balance. This may also lead to lowered function of producing mature sperm. Over time this may lead to male infertility. Research shows elevated levels of estrogen in obese men. The sperm of obese men are often abnormal, increasing risks for miscarriage and chromosomal defects in a developing embryo. They also often have sexual dysfunction.
Diabetes in men has been shown to negatively impact sperm health, including damage to the DNA in sperm. It also contributes to hormonal imbalance. Studies have shown that a diabetic man who does not control his glucose levels has less chance of impregnating his partner and when he does the risk of miscarriage and deformities are much higher.
Chemotherapy ad radiation may cause low sperm count and health.
Injury or trauma to reproductive organs, or one of the endocrine glands
This may cause anti-sperm antibodies or hormonal imbalance which affects sperm health and count.
Vas Deferes Blockage
This is also known as blockage of the epididymis. The Vas Deferns is the tube in which the fertile sperm are transported. Varicocele (varicose veins) of the testicles is the number one reason for this blockage. STD’s may also cause a blockage. Varicoceles is usually treated with surgery. Treat a STD right away to prevent damage to the reproductive organs.
A man’s body may create anti-sperm antibodies when the sperm come into contact with his immune system cells. This happens when the testicles are injured, after surgery or if the prostrate gland has an infection. The testicles protect the sperm from immune cells. When they are damaged they may no longer be able to do that. Over 70% of all men who get a vasectomy will develop anti-sperm antibodies.
Antibodies are triggered during the immune response that will work to kill off the sperm. High numbers of sperm anti-bodies can make it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg and/or fertilize the egg. Anti-sperm antibodies also may damage sperm that survive, which increases chances of miscarriage. Anti-sperm antibodies are considered to be an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases may also contribute to hormonal imbalance as well.
Research has shown that smoking also leads to a longer conception time than for non-smokers. It also has been shown to damage DNA in sperm and to reduce adrenal gland function.
Men who regularly consume alcohol have lower sperm motility and concentration, as well as lowered chance of fertilization.
May cause erectile dysfunction.
Long-term use of medications and Drug Addiction
A variety of medications both over-the-counter and prescription may cause erectile dysfunction, low libido, hormonal imbalance, and poor sperm production, count and health.
Heavy exposure to radiation or other environmental pollution
Radiation and environmental pollution is known to damage DNA and the thyroid gland as well as other body systems. This may cause hormonal imbalance.
Hormonal Imbalance + Other Health Related Issues = Low Sperm Count and Health
Over time health issues may lead to hormonal imbalance or vice versa. This may lead to low sperm count, health and problems with erectile function. None of which are good if you are trying to conceive. A complete semen analysis will determine the following:
Whip of the tail, movement of sperm
Size and shape of the sperm
20 million sperm per mL plus a healthy sperm count. Less than that is considered low sperm count.
Issues with Sperm Count, Health and Delivery Issues
- Vas Deferens blockage-varicoceles or STD Damage
- Low sperm count
- Abnormal sperm shape
- Abnormal or poor sperm movement
- Immobile sperm
- Abnormal sperm production
- Genetic disorders
- Retrograde ejaculation
- Erectile dysfunction
- Vasectomy reversal
- Physical or structural abnormalities such as undescended testicle
If you have been trying for a year or more to get pregnant naturally it may be time to see a doctor. If you suspect you have any of the above risk factors it may be time for testing.
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