When my husband had to go see a urologist, he didn’t know what he was expecting to hear. Like me, he had no idea the signs of male infertility. Or what he could do to change or improve his fertility. It was a sensitive topic to discuss, but we learned a lot seeing our various specialists to determine our next best steps in conceiving.
The 5 more common signs of male infertility to look out for include:
- Pain or swelling in the testicles
- Altered sexual desire
- Erectile dysfunction
- Issues with ejaculation and sperm health
- Small, firm testicles
Most of the time, men don’t know they have a fertility issue until they are ready to start family planning with their partner. By knowing the common signs of male infertility, one can be more knowledgeable of when to seek medical advice from a doctor.
Everyone’s reproductive health history is unique and different, so the sooner you consult with a doctor regarding any health issues, the better you’ll know of what steps to take to conceive with your partner.
1. Pain or swelling in the testicles
Pain or swelling in the testicles can affect a man’s fertility and could be caused by many factors. It could be due to a testicle infection, inflammation or injury to the scrotum, hernia, or enlarged veins in the scrotum.
These should all be monitored and checked out by a doctor. For some if a hernia is left untreated, it could damage a man’s vas deferens (the tube that the sperm travels through).
2. Altered sexual desire
It’s natural to go through dry spells. But if extreme changes in a man’s sexual desire exists and is prolonged, it could be due to hormonal changes that may affect a man’s fertility. Hormonal problems could be a result of a tumor, congenital lack of the hormones LH/FSH, or anabolic steroid abuse.
Fertility can be normally restored by abstaining from steroid injections. Like with any medications, they should be used with caution and only if they are prescribed by a doctor.
3. Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is a sign of men’s infertility and are commonly linked to hormonal imbalances. They can also be caused by veins not normally compressing during an erection due to an injury or disease, diabetes, or psychological factors.
Psychologically, erectile dysfunction can be due to feelings of guilt associated with sex, depression, anxiety, and stress. Switching medications, adjusting to a healthier lifestyle such as quitting smoking and not using recreational drugs, and seeking counseling should be considered to help with erectile dysfunction.
4. Issues with ejaculation and sperm health
If a man is experiencing difficulty ejaculating, it could be due to sperm production. Factors that affect sperm production can be due to genetic causes, undescended testes, or even certain medicines and chemicals.
Chemotherapy medication or undergoing radiation treatment and certain antibiotics can lower a man’s sperm count thus affecting his fertility.
5. Small, firm testicles
The condition of a man’s testicles affects the health and quality of a male’s sperm. A doctor will do a physical exam of the testes to check its condition. Any abnormality would warrant further tests and evaluations.
What to do
If you notice any of these signs, consult with your doctor. Some symptoms may need medical surgery to correct, medication, or even some natural methods.
The most important thing to do first to check for possible male infertility is to have a sperm and semen analysis done. A man’s semen will be evaluated for shape, appearance and mobility. Sperm count and concentration will also be checked. If a man’s sperm count is low, further evaluation is done as well as a urinalysis.
This was the case for my husband – he was diagnosed with low sperm count. He had to undergo a testicular biopsy to check the health of his sperm. Thankfully that was not the end of our dreams to conceive. We embarked on our journey to parenthood through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Now assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) offer couples many new options to conceive. There are vitamins for males, just like a women’s prenatal vitamin, that will help with his reproductive health.
What we learned
My husband and I learned through this process that a man can do many things to improve his fertility. These lifestyle changes include:
- Stop smoking or doing recreational drugs. They cause a lower sperm count.
- Lessen alcohol intake. No more than two drinks per day. Alcohol can lower testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction and decrease sperm production as well.
- Avoid hot tubs or saunas due to the high temperatures. The hot temperature impairs sperm count.
- Get adequate sleep and minimize stress to improve health. Stress can interfere with certain hormones needed to produce sperm.
- Improve diet and exercise. Obesity impacts sperm health.
- Wear boxers instead of underwear. The tight clothing may impact sperm production due to the constriction and heating.
- Avoid biking. This strenuous activity may also harm testicles and sperm production.
Having any of the 5 common signs of male infertility – pain or swelling in the testicles, altered sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, issues with ejaculation and sperm health, or small, firm testicles – is not the end of your chances to conceive with your partner. There are treatments, medications, and lifestyle changes to improve a male’s reproductive health. Please consult with your doctor if any of these symptoms affect you to determine the next best steps.
I know it was devastating news to hear of our diagnosis of infertility. It brought on a lot of stress and anxiety. For my husband, it was depressing and a blow to his ego. I remember getting rid of all my husband’s underwear so he could only wear boxers. That didn’t do the trick. But we believed our fertility specialist who said we only needed one good sperm and one good egg to get pregnant – we held onto that belief as we endured our IVF journey to parenthood. It gave us hope and strength when we needed it the most.
Faith, hope, and love always.