Creating Your Family


Many women who are having difficulty getting pregnant wonder if it is them or their partner with the problem.

Approximately 15 percent of all couples have difficulty becoming pregnant. Approximately 50 percent of these couples have male infertility issues as part of the reason they are unable to conceive. This high of a percentage may seem a little hard to believe, especially by your partner. However, it is real and it can be a serious obstacle for couples trying to build their family.

Male factor infertility is typically due to low sperm quality or quantity. There are various reasons that can impact sperm quality or quantity.

Here is a brief list of the most common factors.

  • Medical Issues
  • Sexually transmitted disease (STD) or other infections
  • Use of anabolic steroids
  • Cancer treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • High blood pressure
  • The use of prescription drugs that are known to affect sperm production. (This information can typically be found on the medication information packet or by asking your physician)
  • Blockages that prevent the release of sperm (either due to injury or from birth)
  • Lifestyle or environmental factors
  • Prolonged exposure to heat (ex. hot tubs or whirlpools) Even sitting with a laptop on your lap may hurt sperm production
  • Alcohol consumption or smoking
  • Lubricants (including petroleum jelly or vaginal creams)
  • Exposure to toxins (pesticides, radioactivity or X-rays)
  • Illegal drug use

There may be other factors that contribute to male factor infertility: the number of normal sperm present, the volume, the quality of sperm movement (do they move forward?), or even if the sperm move at all. These types of factors can be detected in a laboratory test called a Semen Analysis. This simple test can be ordered by a physician and is often covered by insurance policies.

No one ever wants to receive any type of negative test result. But there are options if this is the case for your partner. If the test indicates there may be a problem, together you will want to decide if you should make an appointment to see an infertility specialist or even a urologist who specializes in male factor infertility. These physicians may have options to correct or improve the sperm abnormalities.

Some of the options available range from simple lifestyle changes to complex surgical procedures. You, your partner and the physician should determine which options are right for you.

In addition to testing your partner, it is important that you receive testing as well to determine if your body may be contributing to the difficulty creating your family. These tests can be done by either your regular OB/Gyn or an infertility specialist.

Do not be discouraged if you receive any test results that may indicate there are problems. It is important to keep in mind that even though sometimes the problem cannot be fixed, there are many treatment options that can help improve your chances of getting pregnant.

Some of the treatment options that may be offered by an infertility specialist could be Intrauterine Injection (IUI) of your partner’s specimen or even In vitro- Fertilization (IVF). Both of these treatment types involve the female patient to take some form of medication.

Above all things, it is important to keep the lines of communication open with your partner. You should make sure that you are both on the same page when it comes to creating your family and also with the emotions that you may have. Couples feel frustrated that they are not able to be “like all their friends” or even your own siblings or parents when it comes to creating your future family. You may feel that you are the only one with this problem or that you have no options to achieve your dream of having your own family. There are many resources and even “blogs” that are available to individuals in your situation. You are not alone. There is hope!

Here are a few websites that you might find useful:


Dr. Schillings is a board certified reproductive endocrinologist, obstetrician and gynecologist. She leads all aspects of patient care at RMAPA. In addition, she formerly led the medical team at RE & I Specialist with the Lehigh Valley Physician Group. Dr. Schillings is chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Lehigh Valley Hospital Health Network and Clinical Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Penn State College of Medicine.