Due to the problems associated with the male reproductive system, about a third of infertility problems results, another third due to problems in the female reproductive system, while others are either due to a combined factor or are unexplained.
Unlike the female sex, that has a very complicated reproductive system, the male system is less complicated and most causes of male infertility can be traced to sperm disorders. Several million sperm cells are released in the male ejaculation (semen) during sexual intercourse. However, out of these millions deposited into the vagina, only a few hundreds will finally make the journey to the female egg and have a chance of fertilizing it. The number of sperm that make this all-important journey determines to a large extent, a man's chances of getting his partner pregnant. This is because, the more sperm cells that get to the egg, the better the chances of a successful fertilization.
There are several biological reactions that occur at the point of contact between the sperm cell and the egg. The more sperm cells that come close to the egg, the more likelihood that one of them will posses what it takes to cross the 'protective walls' around the egg. There are several factors that determine the success of the male sperm in this respect, these include; the number of sperm cells released known as 'sperm count', the motility of the sperms, the sperm quality and the shape and size of the sperm cells.
Problems with any of these factors may cause difficulties with fertility. Sperm count, i.e. the number of sperm cells released in the semen, is a very important factor in male fertility. A larger amount of sperm cells is almost always a guarantee that enough cells would make the journey to the egg and achieve the needed fertilization. However, what seems to be even more crucial is the vitality and motility of these sperm cells. A few virile cells reaching the egg would produce a better result than a bunch of abnormal sperm cells. Some men with a low sperm count, but high sperm quality happen to be fertile. The sense here is that, an optimal sperm count with high quality sperm cells is the key to male fertility.
Problems with any part of the male reproductive tract generally tells that, on the sperm quality and sperm count. There are several health and environmental issues that affect male fertility.
Age - As with the whole body, a man's reproductive capacity reduces the age and this also affects the sperm quality. It is estimated that as from age 35, the male sperm quality may start diminishing and this may also affect the sperm count and motility.
Lifestyle Choices - Environment and the lifestyle choices you make can also have an impact on your fertility. Prolonged exposure to extreme heat from hot baths, steam rooms or wearing tight underwear may affect your fertility. Exposure to toxic substances like pesticides, radioactivity or electromagnetic emissions, especially at work may cause sperm abnormalities. It is always advised that you consult your healthcare provider if you are concerned about these and other occupational hazards.
The use of drugs such as those for heart diseases and high blood pressure tend to exert adverse effects on male fertility and some cancer treatments, especially when chemotherapy is involved may also contribute to infertility.
Diseases like diabetes, central nervous system problems and most sexually transmitted diseases have been shown to be bad for fertility. Untreated STDs are known to destroy parts of the male reproductive tracts through which sperm is transported.
Alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking have a negative impact on sperm production and a number of lubricants used during sexual intercourse, such as vagina creams, have also been shown to have negative effects on male sperm quality.
Outside these environmental and 'self imposed' factors, there are other structural and anatomical factors that may also cause sperm disorders and fertility problems.
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to get or maintain an erection. It is the commonest anatomical cause of male infertility. Undescended testes, retrograde ejaculation and scrotal varicole are other structural problems of the male reproductive tract that may affect fertility.