The journey to parenthood can be an emotional one for some, riddled with unexpected challenges and complications. Infertility affects approximately 15% of couples trying to conceive. Although a common misconception about infertility may be that it is a woman’s problem, male factor infertility actually accounts for about 20-30% of infertility cases.

You may not readily think about all the points at which male fertility can be affected– from sperm production to development to transport. Specific causes for male factor infertility can include:

  • Structural abnormalities of the reproductive organs, which can also reduce sperm count and quality
  • Ejaculatory disturbances
  • Immunologic disorders
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Infections
  • An underlying genetic cause

Environment and lifestyle can also affect male fertility. Some examples of this include radiation exposure, overheating of the testicles, illicit drug use, alcohol use, smoking, and emotional stress.

Generally speaking, there are a number of treatment options available depending on the cause of the infertility. Typically, a complete physical examination and male fertility work-up are conducted to evaluate the cause of the infertility and coordinate the appropriate treatment.

Infertility, whether male or female, is a shared burden in a couple’s relationship and affects both partners. It is a situation that may be made easier if a couple faces it as a team. Thus, the best approach is a multifaceted one that entails support, patience, and understanding. In a particularly personal account of his experience with infertility, a psychiatrist shares his and his wife’s journey in family building. His account provides insight into the male’s perspective in this situation as well as the emotional struggles that couples may encounter when trying to start a family following an infertility diagnosis.

For couples struggling to conceive, the first step in taking charge of this family building journey is to seek out the appropriate medical attention and care. There are also many other helpful resources out there for couples who are experiencing trouble conceiving. These resources include the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and RESOLVE, non-profit organizations dedicated to advocating for reproductive health.