Fertility Answers - Helping Build Families

Erectile Dysfunction and Infertility

Erectile dysfunction can make it difficult to make a baby

Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence or ED, is when a man has difficulty getting and keeping an erection. The penis contains two cylindrical, sponge-like structures called corpora cavernosa. During sexual arousal, nerve impulses increase blood flow to both of these cylinders. This sudden influx of blood causes an erection by expanding, straightening and stiffening the penis.

Most male infertility results from the inability to produce or release sperm. Though erectile dysfunction doesn’t necessarily affect sperm or cause male infertility directly, it can affect the chances of conceiving a child by inhibiting a man’s ability to maintain an erection in order to perform sexual intercourse and successfully fertilize an egg. Erectile dysfunction is not as common in younger men, but some studies suggest that more than half of men between the ages of 40 and 70 experience some form of ED.

Erectile dysfunction may be a sign of other health issues

For a man to achieve a full erection, the nervous system, muscles, and blood vessels need to work in a coordinated fashion. If any one of these systems is compromised it could lead to trouble getting an erection. 

While erectile dysfunction doesn’t directly cause problems with sperm, they may both have the same root causes and are often seen in conjunction with each other. Problems getting or keeping an erection can be a sign of an underlying health condition that could also affect sperm health. ED should not be ignored and is a sign that further investigation and possible treatment is needed.

Some major causes for erectile dysfunction include:

  • Blood vessel or heart disease
  • Depression or other mood disorders
  • Emotional issues due to stress and anxiety
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Medications such as antidepressants, antihistamines, or blood pressure–reducing drugs
  • Nerve damage from spinal cord injuries
  • Peyronie’s disease (scar tissue within the penis)
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking and tobacco use
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Side effect related to surgery or radiation to treat the prostate

How we treat erectile dysfunction to help you have a baby

By investigating multiple facets of sexual, general, and psychological health, doctors have the best chance of treating erectile dysfunction by treating its root cause. In many cases, by adopting a healthier lifestyle you can have a positive effect on both erectile dysfunction and fertility. This includes eating well, limiting sugar and alcohol intake, exercising regularly, and addressing any underlying mental health issues.

However, if erectile dysfunction is hindering your ability to conceive a child, there are options for making the process easier. Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, is a method that involves placing sperm directly into your partner’s uterus around the time of ovulation. Additionally, sperm can be collected in advance and frozen to use at the time of the insemination, in case it’s difficult to produce a sample on the day of the procedure.

Another option is surgical sperm retrieval, which includes either extracting or aspirating sperm directly from the testicles or epididymis, usually performed by a reproductive urologist. Sperm can then be cryopreserved for later use or used immediately. IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is required when surgically extracting sperm since it results in a smaller amount of sperm. With ICSI a single sperm is injected directly into an egg to fertilize it in our IVF lab. 

Take the next step

We know erectile dysfunction can be a difficult topic to talk about, but taking this crucial step can set you on a positive path to parenthood. Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our Louisiana fertility specialists in Lafayette or Baton Rouge.