Genetics play a significant role in male infertility. Some men simply don't produce enough sperm -- or the sperm they do produce aren't robust enough to fertilize an egg or get blocked along the way. According to most studies, male infertility is responsible for roughly 30 to 40 percent of cases where a couple can't get pregnant, and often those reasons require medical attention [source: Wald et al]. For couples who have been unable to get pregnant after six months, the first option of the male partner should be a visit to the doctor's office.
"I would focus on the genetic causes of male infertility," says Dr. Ian Hardy, medical director for the Fertility Centers of New England [source: Hardy]. "In general, we have found that medical [prescriptions] -- pills, lifestyle, diet, etc. -- for the male usually does not improve low sperm parameters, leaving us to instead develop techniques for the low sperm."
Those genetic causes can include, but aren't limited to, hormonal imbalance, dilated veins in the scrotum (called varicoceles), blocked or missing sperm ducts (such as vas deferens), testes failing to descend into the scrotum (cryptorchidism) and abnormal seminal fluid which can inhibit motility. Sexually transmitted diseases can be another culprit. A semen analysis will give you a better handle on sperm count, motility and morphology (the shape of your sperm, revealing any deformities) [sources: Wald et al; Werner].
Don't discount testicular injuries as a cause of male infertility, particularly if you're actively involved in contact sports. There can be long-term or even permanent damage to sperm production well after the pain from the initial injury has subsided. However, even males with perfectly normal genetic blueprints can ensure healthy sperm by adhering to the following guidelines.
Up next, we'll look at diet choices that make a difference.