How is male infertility treated?

The results of medical tests help doctors decide whether the male infertility problem can be treated.

Treatable conditions: One in eight infertile men has a treatable condition and, after treatment, couples can become pregnant naturally.

Untreatable sub-fertility: Three quarters of infertile men have sperm present in the semen but in lower numbers than normal. The problem causing the poor production or function of their sperm is often not able to be identified and cured. These men are often referred to as being ‘sub-fertile’; pregnancies may happen but at lower rates than usual. On average, sub-fertile men need to try for a longer period of time for conception to happen; however, it still may never happen. Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as IVF can help men to become fathers.

Untreatable male sterility: About one in nine infertile men has no sperm in his semen or in his testes and usually cannot be treated. Sperm-producing cells in the testes either did not develop or have been irreversibly destroyed. Adoption and donor insemination are the only possibilities for couples in this group who wish to have a family.

How is the best treatment chosen?

Once the doctor has decided if the infertility can be treated, possible treatments can then be explained. Doctors will also discuss the chances of becoming pregnant naturally. Many men will still be able to father children naturally even though they may have a lowered sperm count.

In some cases, the doctor will recommend that the couple seek assisted reproductive technologies (such as IVF) to become pregnant. These technologies do not cure or treat the cause of the male infertility, but they may help the couple conceive, even if the man’s sperm count is very low.

What causes of male infertility can be treated?

In some cases, the cause of the male infertility problem can be treated and a couple can try to become pregnant naturally.

Treatable causes of male infertility include:

  • blockage of sperm transport (for example, vasectomy)
  • hormonal problems
  • some sexual problems (for example, problems with getting and keeping an erection)
  • some reversible conditions (for example, use of anabolic steroids). (10)