A couple is considered infertile when they have not conceived after a full year of regular sexual intercourse without contraception. About one-third of all cases of infertility are related to male factors, and an equal number are due to factors in women. The remaining cases either are related to problems in both partners or occur for unknown reasons.
Men are considered infertile if they produce no sperm cells, if they produce too few sperm cells, or if their sperm cells are abnormal or die before they can reach the egg. Chronic problems with ejaculation also contribute to male infertility. In rare cases, infertility in men is caused by an inherited condition, such as
or chromosomal abnormalities.
Most infertility cases are treated with conventional medical therapies such as medication or surgery. Assisted reproductive technologies, for example, in vitro fertilization and similar treatments, account for less than 5% of infertility services. Infertility, which is often a reversible or treatable condition, should be distinguished from sterility, which implies an irreversible inability to conceive.
American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Guideline: optimal evaluation of the infertile female.
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American Society for Reproductive Medicine website. Available at:
http://www.asrm.org/topics/detail.aspx?id=1331. Accessed December 2, 2013.
Male risks. Protect your fertility website. Available at:
http://www.protectyourfertility.org/malerisks.html. Accessed December 2, 2013.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/repro. Updated August 19, 2013. Accessed December 2, 2013.
Sharlip ID, Jarrow J, et al. Report on optimal evaluation of the infertile male.
Shefi S, Turek PJP. Definition and current evaluation of subfertile men.
Internat Braz J Urol.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
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