Baby making should be easy as 1-2-3. When we are young we’re taught in Human Biology class how pregnancy occurs, never expecting that when we are ready to start a family, the process is not as easy, at least not for some.
The fact is one in six couples will have difficulty getting pregnant and in about half of these couples, male infertility plays a role.
What’s a good definition of male infertility?
We define it as a man’s inability to get his partner pregnant due to low sperm production, abnormal sperm function or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Illnesses, injuries, chronic health problems, lifestyle choices and other factors can play a role in causing male infertility.
At our fertility centres in both Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, the male patient often asks us after a diagnosis “Could I have known before? Should I have seen the warning signs?
The answer in most cases is no.
At times there are no obvious signs of a man’s infertility. Intercourse, erections and ejaculation can and do happen without difficulty and the quantity and appearance of the ejaculated semen can generally appear normal to the naked eye. Under the microscope that’s where a different story begins to appear and medical tests are always needed to find out if a man is infertile. For instance we know that having a lower than normal sperm count with fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen or a total sperm count of less than 39 million per ejaculate spells trouble once a couple decides it’s time to start a family.
However there are some indicators that a couple can look out for:
– Difficulty with ejaculation, reduced sexual desire or difficulty maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)
– Pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area
– Recurrent respiratory infections
– Decreased facial or body hair or other signs of a chromosomal or hormonal abnormality