Male Infertility

Reproduction (or making a baby) is a simple and natural experience for most couples. However, for some couples it is very difficult to conceive.

A man’s fertility generally relies on the quantity and quality of his sperm. If the number of sperm a man ejaculates is low or if the sperm are of a poor quality, it will be difficult, and sometimes impossible, for him to cause a pregnancy.

Male infertility is diagnosed when, after testing both partners, reproductive problems have been found in the male.  Infertility is a widespread problem. For about one in five infertile couples the problem lies solely in the male partner. It is estimated that one in 20 men has some kind of fertility problem with low numbers of sperm in his ejaculate. However, only about one in every 100 men has no sperm in his ejaculate.  In most cases, there are no obvious signs of infertility. Intercourse, erections and ejaculation will usually happen without difficulty. The quantity and appearance of the ejaculated semen generally appears normal to the naked eye.

Only Medical tests can identify if a man is infertile.

The male reproductive system is made up of the testes, a system of ducts (tubes) and other glands that open into the ducts. The brain plays an important part in the control of the male reproductive system.

The pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, located at the base of the brain, control the production of male hormones and sperm. Luteinising hormone and follicle stimulating hormone are the two important messenger hormones made by the pituitary gland that act on the testes.

The testes are a pair of egg-shaped glands that sit in the scrotum next to the base of the penis on the outside of the body. The testes make sperm and the male sex hormone testosterone. It takes about 70 days for sperm to become mature and able to fertilise an egg.

When released from the testes, the sperm spend two to 10 days passing through the epididymis where they gain the vital ability to swim strongly (become ‘motile’), and to attach to and penetrate (get into) the egg.

At orgasm, waves of muscle contractions transport the sperm, with a small amount of fluid, from the testes through to the vas deferens. The seminal vesicles and prostate contribute extra fluid to protect the sperm. This mixture of sperm and fluid (the semen) travels along the urethra to the tip of the penis where it is ejaculated (released).

Adapted from Andrology Australia

An explanation of the Parts of the Male Reproductive System

Penis

The penis consists of three main parts: the root, the body, and the glans penis.

•  The root is attached to the abdominal and pelvic wall.

•  The body is the middle portion. The body of the penis consists of three cylindrical spaces of soft tissue. When the two larger spaces fill with blood, the penis becomes large and rigid, forming an erection.

•  Two larger cylindrical spaces of soft tissue, called the corpora cavernosa, are located side by side and form the bulk of the penis.

•  The third cylindrical space of soft tissue, called the corpus spongiosum, surrounds the urethra, which forms the urinary passage.

•  The glans penis is the cone-shaped end or head of the penis, which is the termination of the corpus spongiosum. The small ridge that separates the glans penis from the shaft or body of the penis is called the corona.

Vas Deferens and Seminal Vesicles

Once sperm are produced, they travel through a collection area, called the epididymis, and then through a tube or duct, called the vas deferens, which then joins the seminal vesicles to form the ejaculatory duct. The seminal vesicles produce a fluid that provides nutrients for the sperm and lubricates the urethra. This fluid mixes with other fluids to create the semen.

During ejaculation, muscles surrounding the seminal vesicles contract and push out the sperm and the fluid from the seminal vesicles, much like squeezing a tube of toothpaste. The seminal vesicles are located behind the prostate and the bladder.

Scrotum

The scrotum is a thin sac of skin and thin muscle in which lie the testicles. The scrotum acts as a climate control system, allowing the testicles to be slightly away from the rest of the body and keeping them slightly cooler than normal body temperature for optimal sperm development. The muscles in the scrotum, called the ‘cremasteric muscles’, move the testicles slightly within the scrotum depending on the surrounding temperature.

Testes/Testicles

The testes (or testicles) are two olive-sized oval bodies, one on the right side and one on the left side. The testes have two main functions:

•  To produce sperm (the male reproductive cell), and

•  To produce testosterone (the male sex hormone).

The epididymis and the ‘vas deferens’ are attached to the testicles and are important in transporting sperm cells after they develop in the testes. The term testicles includes the testes as well as the surrounding structures, such as the vas deferens and the epididymis. These two names, testes and testicles, are often used interchangeably even though their definitions are slightly different.

Prostate Gland

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that lies below the urinary bladder and surrounds the urethra. Along with the seminal vesicles, the prostate gland produces a fluid, called prostatic fluid that contains, protects, nourishes, and supports the sperm. The white, sticky fluid originally from the prostate forms most of the volume of the semen. The prostate has no known function other than reproduction.

Adapted from eMedicineHealth

How can Dave Wells Therapies help?

Being a parent is a goal that many aim to achieve.  When a partner is found to be infertile, it can have a devastating psychological effect on the person and on the partnership.  Although completely untrue, a person can feel guilty or incomplete and require support to adapt to the reproductive difference that hinders their plans for parenthood.

Some people due to varied health conditions, become aware that they may not or cannot have children earlier in their life, before being a parent is even considered.  For many, they discover their infertility only when they are trying to conceive a child.

If fertility difficulties are interfering with conceiving a child naturally, many turn to ‘In Vitro Fertilisation’ (IVF) where the fertilisation process involves combining a woman’s egg with sperm outside of the body.  This can be an expensive venture and take a number of attempts before a successful pregnancy is achieved, if at all.

Either way, the journey can be traumatic and support maybe required to address the emotional and psychological turmoil that can be experienced.  Dave Wells can support Dave Wells can be of support for the individual and the couple to equip you with the skills needed to manage emotions, cope better with day-to-day stresses, whether these are related to treatment or not, and ultimately prevent long-term problems such as depression or anxiety.