Mother and Baby

9 possible causes of male infertility, explained

Section: Fertility
male infertility

In so many conversations around infertility, it's often forgotten that in up to a third of infertility cases the issues lie with the man.

Male infertility is usually caused by low sperm count and mobility, but there are all sorts of possible reasons why your partner might be struggling with fertility issues.

How common is male infertility?

More common than you'd think - around one in twenty men have a low sperm count. If you think this might be you, there are plenty of ways you can increase your sperm count and improve your chances when trying for a baby.

There are many factors that could contribute to male infertility, from lifestyle choices (like a few too many nights at the pub) to genetic issues like chromosomal abnormalities.

9 possible causes of male infertility

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1) Smoking

Your partner kicking the habit can really increase your chances of getting pregnant. Research has shown that smoking reduces the quality of his sperm, causes lower sperm count and affects the sperms swimming patterns. All of this can make it much more difficult to conceive! 
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2) Alcohol and drugs

Regular trips to the pub could effect male fertility, according to a 2014 study. Just five drinks a week could contribute to fertility issues, not to mention lowering of libido and erectile issues associated with a few too many pints.
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3) Some medications

Sadly, some medications can be a possible cause of male infertility. Medication that treats arthritis, depression, digestive problems, high blood pressure and cancer has been shown to affect fertility in some men. These drugs can cause problems with sperm production and motility. But these effects can be temporary, only causing issues while on the medication. 
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4) Abnormal sperm

Having issues with a low sperm count? Don't stress. This is a really common cause of fertility issues. Having abnormal sperm can mean not having enough sperm, sperm not moving fast enough or not being the right shape. There are also lots of ways your partner can boost their sperm count without medical intervention. 
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5) Testicular problems 

Damage to this sensitive region could seriously impacy your partner's fertility. Problems with the testicals, including sports injuries, could affect the quantity and quality of sperm, making it much harder to conceive. Experts say it's important to keep the area cool and breezy, which might mean saying goodbye to those tight Calvin Kleins. 
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6) Low testosterone

If you're trying for a baby with no luck so far, your partner could be suffering from the effects of low testosterone. This is called Hypogonadism and means you don't produce enough testosterone. This could result in a low sperm count (less swimmers) and leave you not wanting to have sex. This condition can develop from birth or even after a serious illness or accident. 
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7) Ejaculation disorders

Sometimes infertility issues start in the bedroom. Problems like erectile dysfunction, retrograde ejaculation (where sperm is ejaculated backwards into the bladder) or anorgasmia. If your partner has nerve damage in their penis, they may not be able to have enough feeling to ejaculate, which could cause fertility issues. 
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8) Genetic causes

Genetic causes of infertility are quite rare, however they are a possible contributing factor to fertility issues in men. The most common genetic causes of infertility are Klinefelter Syndrome (where you're born with an extra X chromasome), Y chromasome deletions (which affects sperm production), and Down Syndrome. The issues can also be caused by mutations in single genes, but this is super rare. 
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9) Stress

Yes - even stress can sometimes cause infertility. Studies have found that stresses about money, health and life in general can reduce sperm and semen quality. So if you're trying for a baby, try to keep stress levels at bay. 

Now read:

8 fabulous foods to boost his sperm count (and increase your chance of conceiving!)

The importance of folic acid for male fertility

I’m not pregnant yet - when should I worry?

  • Author: Louella Berryman Louella Berryman
  • Job Title: Audience Development Executive

After training as a journalist at Cardiff University and winning the BBC Best New Brand of the Year Award for her plastic-free magazine, Louella now works in Audience Development across Bauer’s lifestyle brands.
She has also written for The Sunday Times Travel, Grazia, heatworld, Closer Online and her food blog, Louella’s Kitchen. She's interested in writing about food, culture and women's health.

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