Common Reasons for Male Infertility

Written by Dave Rich

On February 21, 2011

When you and your significant other are trying to conceive but it’s just not happening, the trouble could be infertility. What causes infertility? There are many causes of infertility for both men and women. On this page, we’ll explore some of the most common reasons for male infertility so you can have a better understanding of what’s going on.

Understanding the Male Reproductive System

In order to better understand what causes infertility, it helps to understand the basics of the male reproductive system. I mean, sure, you look down there when you’re in the shower but do you know what everything actually does? It’s been a long time since high school sex education.

 Let’s recap:

Your primary sexual organs are your penis and testicles. Sperm, which is stored in your testes, is transported through your urethra into your penis during sexual intercourse. Another often-overlooked function of the testes is the production of testosterone. A man needs an adequate amount of testosterone in order to maintain his fertility.

An internal sexual organ you may have never thought of is your prostate. Your prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland that releases proteins and hormones that protect your sperm from the acidic content of a woman’s vaginal fluid.

What is Infertility?

If you and your significant other have tried conceiving a child for over a year without success, you are considered an infertile couple. When it comes to infertility, conception difficulties are commonly thought to be the woman’s fault. The truth is, up to 40% of infertility cases are caused by a male problem.

Common Causes of Male Infertility

When you’re trying to conceive and having no success, it can lead to depression in both you and your partner. Both men and women often take infertility personally. Thinking there must be something wrong with them as a person that they cannot bring a child into the world. There may be something wrong but it’s not with you or your significant other as a person. The problem is most often medical and treatable.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for male infertility:

1. Medications

If you’re on prescription medications for high blood pressure or depression, it may interfere with conception. Both types of medications can cause erectile dysfunction, which can lead to inability to conceive. Talk with your doctor about some of your other options.

2. Smoking

When you’re trying to conceive, the last thing you want to do is smoke. Not only will it be unhealthy for your pregnant partner and your unborn child, it will also seriously hinder your ability to conceive in the first place.

3. Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse causes infertility. If you’re drinking more than one or two alcoholic beverages per day every day, you could be lowering your sperm count and decreasing your chances of conception. Men with a history of alcohol abuse should take steps to get healthy before trying to conceive.

4. Steroid Use

Bodybuilder’s beware. If you’re getting a little extra help from steroids in the men’s fitness area, you could be setting yourself up for infertility. Anabolic steroids cause testicular shrinkage, impotence, and infertility. Do yourself a favor and get off that stuff before it kills you and your chances of having a baby.

5. Excessive Exercise

There’s nothing wrong with getting in a good solid workout everyday but pushing yourself to the max causes infertility. Excessive exercise produces high levels of adrenal steroid hormones, which may lead to testosterone deficiency. When testosterone levels are down, so are your chances of conceiving.

6. Cycling

Riding a bike is a great way to get some exercise and fresh air. Professional cyclists, however, have been urged to freeze their sperm before embarking on a cycling career. If you’re cycling for fun and exercise, you’re probably fine. However, if you’re training for a triathlon, you might have difficulty when trying to conceive.

7. Tight Underwear

They don’t call them “tighty whities” for nothing. Tight underwear do more than keep your package from swinging around when you walk; they can cause infertility. Why? When your boys are squished up into that tiny little space all day, it can cause them to get way too hot. Hot testicles mean damaged sperm. If you’re having trouble conceiving, you might want to switch from briefs to boxers.

8. Vitamin Deficiencies

Men’s nutrition is always important and doubly so when you’re trying to conceive. The most common vitamin deficiencies related to male infertility is vitamin C and zinc. Adding both these vitamins to your diet in supplement form might be a good idea, especially if you don’t think you have the time to eat right.

9. Prostate Disease

Prostate disease can also interfere with conception. In order for a man to conceive, his prostate must be healthy. If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction, pain, frequent urination or having to strain to urinate, prostate disease could be the underlying cause of your infertility.

10. Retrograde Ejaculation

Retrograde ejaculation is another common cause of male infertility. This happens when the muscles in the urethra and bladder don’t work properly. Instead of sperm being forced out through the urethra, it’s transported backward into the bladder. Is your urine often cloudy? Retrograde ejaculation may be causing your infertility.

11. Sperm Allergy

Wait. You can be allergic to your own sperm? Believe it or not, yes. Sperm allergy can make conception difficult. When you have an allergy to your own sperm, your immune system attacks and destroy them as though they were a foreign invader.

12. Low Sperm Count

When a couple is trying to conceive, low sperm count is a common factor in infertility. Low sperm count can be caused by medication, steroids, stress, obesity, low testosterone, and tight underwear.

13. Varicocele

Varicocele is a very common cause of male infertility. Varicocele means there is a mass of varicose veins in the spermatic cord, causing temperature increase. This decreases sperm production and quality.

14. Celiac Disease

You may have never thought a piece of wheat toast could cause you to have difficulty conceiving but it can. If you have the autoimmune disorder celiac disease, it could decrease your chances of conception. Common symptoms of celiac disease include stomach pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, brain fog, headache, and all-around achy feeling. If you have these symptoms, cut gluten out of your diet for a month and see if they subside. If so, you may need a lifetime gluten free diet.

15. Injury

Injury to the sexual organs can also lead to problems in conception. Whether your injury was recent or happened years ago, it may be contributing to your infertility.

Treatments for Male Infertility

Now that you know what causes infertility, what can you do about it? Thankfully, there are plenty of treatments for men to consider when struggling with infertility.


Common conventional treatments for men living with infertility are drugs to increase sperm count, surgical treatment in the case of varicocele and un-descended testes, assisted reproduction such as in-vitro fertilization.


When trying to conceive, it’s best to stay healthy. Some natural male infertility “treatments” include quitting smoking, decreasing your alcohol intake, adding vitamin C and zinc, and cleaning up your diet. Some studies have shown certain sexual positions may improve your chances of conceiving. These are missionary and “doggie style”. It may be just an Old Wive’s Tale but it may just spice things up in the bedroom.

In order to really understand why you’re not conceiving, it’s important for both you and your significant other to visit with a fertility specialist. Try making some healthy changes first. After all, the cause could be something as simple as a vitamin deficiency or a need to lose weight.

If, however, you still aren’t conceiving after another three to six months, you might want to book an appointment with an endocrinologist. Together, the three of you can get to the bottom of the problem so you can bring home that bundle of joy.

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