What is fertility?

In men, fertility means being able to make a woman pregnant. For this to happen, a woman’s egg needs to be fertilised by a man’s sperm.

The parts of your body that allow you to do this are called your reproductive system. In men this includes the testicles, the penis and the prostate gland.

The pituitary gland at the base of your brain is also important for fertility. It releases hormones (chemical messengers) that control how your reproductive system works.

Fertility in men depends on:

  • having healthy sperm
  • being able to get an erection and to ejaculate (come)
  • hormone levels.

The testicles begin to make and store sperm from puberty onwards. This process is controlled by hormones produced by the pituitary gland and by the testicles. The testicles make the main male hormone testosterone. This hormone is also important for sex drive and getting an erection.

Normally, you need to have sex to fertilise a woman’s egg. This involves getting an erection and ejaculating in a woman’s vagina. The fluid released is called semen. Semen contains millions of sperm from the testicles and fluid from the prostate gland. One of the sperm may fertilise an egg which may then grow into a baby.

Some people need to have fertility treatment to have a baby. This is also called assisted conception. These treatments can be used to help people who have difficulty getting pregnant naturally.

Back to Fertility in men

Getting support

You may find it helpful to talk to someone about any fertility worries.