What is Male Infertility?
Infertility is defined as a couple's inability to achieve pregnancy following one year of appropriately timed and unprotected intercourse. By this criterion it has been estimated that approximately 15 to 20% of couples attempting to achieve pregnancy are unable to do so. A female factor is the primary etiology in approximately 50% of these couples, and another 20 to 30% are pure male factor. A combination of male and female factors accounts for the remaining 20 to 30% of cases. This suggests that in 50% of couples presenting for infertility evaluation, a male factor is contributory. Conservatively estimated, this means that 2.5 million American men would potentially benefit from a fertility evaluation.
Oftentimes, the approach to the infertile couple begins with an evaluation of the female, primarily because it is usually the female partner who has initiated a workup by consultation with her gynecologist. Because of this there is often a delay in male evaluation and treatment. Additionally, the mistaken notion that infertility is associated with "impotence" or decreased masculinity has also contributed to a delay in male evaluation and treatment. It makes sense, however, to start with the male partner, whose initial evaluation may be performed rapidly and non-invasively.
The most important part of the evaluation of the infertile male is the history and physical examination.
It is our experience that in 90% of cases an accurate impression is obtained from an initial visit after a thorough history, physical examination, and light microscopic examination of a semen specimen.
Further testing usually serves to confirm the diagnosis and help direct the course of therapy. Recent research advances in the area of male reproduction have brought about dramatic changes in the ability to not only diagnose, but also treat male infertility.
Currently, detection of the underlying problems causing male infertility and directed treatment is possible in most cases.
Furthermore, the specific treatment of the "male problem" is often more successful, less expensive and possibly less invasive than in vitro fertilization (IVF) or other assisted reproductive treatments. Additionally, about 1% of men who present with the symptom of "infertility" will actually have a serious medical problem causing the infertility that, if left untreated, may jeopardize a man's health or life.
The most important point is, the majority of couples suffering from infertility can be helped to conceive a child. Artificial techniques of reproduction have advanced to the point where a single sperm can be physically injected into an egg (intracytoplasmic sperm injection [ICSI]). ICSI has dramatically changed the treatment available for even the most severe male factor infertility. Because of this technique, 90% of all infertile men, including half of all men with non-obstructive azoospermia, have the potential to conceive their own genetic child.
Postmortem Sperm Retrieval (PMSR)
To learn more about PMSR and Weill Cornell Medicine's policies & guidelines surrounding this procedure, please click here.
Innovations in Male Reproductive Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine
In this video, Dr. Peter Schlegel discusses some of the groundbreaking advancements that have been developed at Weill Cornell Medicine in the evaluation and treatment for male infertility.
Although Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital are widely recognized for expertise in the surgical management of male infertility, advancements in our laboratory have allowed for sperm to be found and utilized to achieve pregnancy, avoiding unnecessary surgery in some cases.
Weill Cornell's Male Reproductive Medicine Specialists
Weill Cornell Medicine Urology is home to the leading men's fertility doctors in New York. Our faculty have been instrumental in the development of new approaches to the treatment of male infertility, as well as the development of the diagnostic process of infertility evaluation for men. The Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Microsurgery at Weill Cornell Medicine was the first university center in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to male infertility research and treatment.
Dr. Marc Goldstein, who founded the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Microsurgery in 1982, has long been recognized as a leader for Male Reproductive Medicine.
Dr. Peter Schlegel, Chairman of the Department of Urology at Weill Cornell Medicine, is a world-renowned innovator in male infertility treatments, perhaps most famously known for his work in micro-TESE extraction of sperm from testicular tissue, also known as the "Schlegel Procedure".
Dr. Darius Paduch is the Director of Sexual Health & Medicine in the Department of Urology, and specializes in both male reproductive medicine & male sexual medicine, with a directed interest in disorders affecting adolescent development like Klinefelter syndrome.
Dr. James Kashanian specializes in management of male infertility, low testosterone, and sexual dysfunction, with a particular clinical focus on surgical management of erectile dysfunction including penile prosthesis surgery, as well as fertility preservation in cancer patients.
Our center in New York continues to be at the forefront of male fertility medicine, pioneering new microsurgical techniques and providing the highest quality care for all of our patients.
Male Infertility Research - Additional Reading
If you are interested in learning more about Weill Cornell Medicine's current research on new treatments for severe male infertility, please click here.
Additional resources related to male infertility research can be found on the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Microsurgery page as well as the Male Infertility Genetics Laboratory page.