Problems with the Man's Reproductive System

Male infertility

Lots of couples have trouble conceiving a child. About 30 percent of the time, the cause of their infertility is from the man.

The male fertility process involves making mature sperm and getting the sperm to reach and fertilize the egg. For this process to happen, a man must be able to have and keep an erection, have enough sperm, have enough semen to carry the sperm to the egg, and have sperm that are the right shape and move in the right way. A problem in any part of this process can lead to problems conceiving.

Many factors can affect male fertility. Some include:

  • Age
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Some illegal drugs, like anabolic steroids or artificial testosterone taken to increase muscle mass
  • Undescended testicles or damage to the testicles
  • Too much heat, like from hot tubs or, possibly, from tight underwear
  • Certain medications, such as cancer medications (chemotherapy)
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Environmental toxins, like pesticides, at work or at home
  • Genetic conditions
  • Other health problems, including obesity

If your partner has not become pregnant after one year of frequent sex without birth control (or after six months if your partner is 35 or older), talk to your doctor. A semen test, which looks at the health of a man's semen and sperm, can be a good first step for couples facing fertility problems. That's because it is much easier and costs less than tests for female fertility. Many couples with fertility problems go on to have healthy pregnancies and babies.

More information on male infertility

  • Trying to Conceive – Are you and your partner trying to have a baby? Are you wondering if you or your partner is infertile? Read this section of womenshealth.gov to boost your chances of conception and get help for fertility problems.

Explore other publications

  • Healthy Sperm: Improving Your Fertility (© Mayo Foundation) – This publication provides information about male fertility. It provides tips to optimize the quality of your sperm and discusses semen analysis.
  • Infertility in Men (© University of Maryland Medical Center) – This publication discusses male infertility and includes information on causes, tests, treatments, and more.
  • Male Factor Infertility (© Yale School of Medicine) – This publication explains what male infertility is, the risk factors, causes, and affected populations. It also talks about treatment for male infertility.
  • Semen Analysis Test (© American Association for Clinical Chemistry) – This publication explains how and when a semen analysis is used, what the results mean, and why it is a good first test when exploring possible causes of infertility in couples.
  • Vasectomy Reversal (© Mayo Foundation) – Vasectomy reversal surgery restores fertility in most men. This publication will help you find out what to expect and how to prepare. It also explains the costs, results, and the risks associated with the surgery.

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