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Infertility Affects Men and Women Equally

The chance of a normal couple conceiving is 20% to 37% by three months, 75% by six months, and 90% at one year. Of those couples that do not conceive in the first year, as many as 50% will conceive in the next year. Couples that have tried without success to conceive should see a fertility specialist. About 20% of infertility cases are due to a male factor alone. Another 30% involves both male and female factors.

View all our resources on male fertility
Male 50-50 contribution to infertility

Causes of Infertility

When a couple has trouble having a baby, there's about a 50-50 chance that the man has a problem contributing to the pregnancy. He might:

  • Produce too few sperm to fertilize an egg
  • Make sperm that are not shaped properly or that do not move the way they should
  • Have a blockage in his reproductive tract that keeps sperm from getting out

If you might have a fertility problem, your doctor will want to perform a complete history and physical, as well as several tests to find out what may be causing your infertility.

View the Male Factor Infographic

How is Male Fertility Evaluated?

The first way a doctor evaluates male fertility involves a physical exam and medical history. After that, semen is evaluated. The semen is normally collected in a sterile containter by masturbation. The semen test gives important information about the amount, movement, and shape of sperm. If the sperm count is normal and the sperm are of normal shape and moving normally, the man is most likely normal. If the results are abnormal, the sperm should be examined. Illness or medications three months earlier can impair sperm ejaculated on the day of examination. Hormone blood tests also may be used to help evaluate male fertility issues.

View the Comprehensive Male Fertlity Video (22 mins) Read the Diagnostic Testing for Male Factor Infertility fact sheet

Should we change the way we have sex?


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How often should a couple have intercourse?

Surprisingly, long periods of abstinence can decrease the quality of sperm. Couples should have intercourse (sex) at least two to three times a week during the fertile period. A couple has more chances for pregnancy if they have intercourse every one to two days during the fertile window, and a pregnancy is most likely if a couple has intercourse within the six-day time frame that ends on the day that an egg is released (ovulation).

Are there coital (sex) practices that can improve our chances of conceiving?

Sperm ejaculated into the vagina reaches the fallopian tubes within minutes regardless of position during intercourse. Also, there is no evidence that orgasm or prolonged rest after intercourse increases the chance of conception. Some commercial lubricants and other substances used for lubrication such as saliva, olive oil and KY Jelly® should be avoided during the fertile period. They may make the sperm move slower and decrease their ability to survive. You may want to discuss lubricant choices with your doctor since there are a few lubricants that are believed to be safe for use when trying to conceive.

Is Age a Factor I Should Worry About?


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Environmental Toxicants can last up to a year in sperm

What Can I Do to Optimize My Fertility?

Like many aspects of our health, a man’s fertility is improved by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining an ideal weight, a diet rich in antioxidants (found in fruits and vegetables), as well as multi-vitamins may improve the quality of sperm. Reducing stress and controlling chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes may also improve a man’s chances of impregnating his partner. Remember that any such changes in the man’s lifestyle will take almost three months to show an improvement in sperm. Couples with underlying medical or genetic conditions should see a doctor so that they can increase their overall health before conceiving.

Read the Optimizing Male Fertility fact sheet View the full Environmental Toxicants Infographic

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Fact Sheets/Booklets

View more fact sheets and booklets written by the ASRM Patient Education Committee.
Patient

Infertility: an Overview (booklet)

Infertility is typically defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse.
Patient

Optimizing Natural Fertility

Before attempting pregnancy, a woman should make sure she is healthy enough for pregnancy by adopting a healthier lifestyle and taking prenatal vitamins. If she has a medical or genetic condition or risk of one, she should seek advice from a medical professional before conceiving (becoming pregnant)
Patient

Optimizing Male Fertility

About 20% of infertility cases are due to a male factor alone. Another 30% involves both male and female factors.
Patient

What is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)?

A procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can be done along with in vitro fertilization (IVF) if a sperm cannot penetrate the outer layer of an egg.
Patient

Male cancer, cryopreservation, and fertility

This can be confusing since the terms are often used interchangeably in the media and casual conversation.
Patient

Male infertility evaluation: what do I need to know?

Infertility is the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of unprotected sex.

Resources For You

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) is committed to providing patients with the highest quality information about reproductive care.