Harvard Mental Health Letter

Male Infertility

What Is It?

Infertility is the inability to achieve a normal pregnancy. About one in seven couples in the United States is unable to conceive a child after trying regularly for one year. Some couples will have success in the second or third year of trying, but couples that cannot conceive after three years are very unlikely to ever succeed unless they seek medical assistance.

Infertility in a couple may be caused by the male partner, the female partner or both. Studies suggest the male partner alone is infertile in about 20% of cases and that both partners have fertility problems about 30% of the time. Therefore, the male partner plays a role in about half of all couples that have difficulty conceiving a child. In about 15% of cases, infertility tests are completely normal in both partners, despite the fact that the couple cannot conceive a child.

Male infertility has a wide variety of causes, which can be broken down into several major groups:

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