Approximately one in six couples who are trying to conceive will experience some form of infertility.
In about 35 percent of cases, the problem is a form of female factor infertility while in another 35 percent male infertility is the issue. The remaining couples either have a combination of male and female-based fertility problems or have infertility that is unexplainable.
The Facts About Male Infertility
Diagnosing Male Infertility
Even if there is a known cause of infertility in the female partner, it is recommended that the male partner undergo fertility testing as well, to be sure that there are no contributing factors before proceeding with treatment. Screening procedures for male infertility are relatively simple and non-invasive. The initial test is a semen analysis, which will indicate if there are any potential issues. Additional testing may be performed as indicated by the semen analysis results.
Once a semen sample has been collected, either in our office or at home, it will be examined for volume and consistency, as well as sperm count, motility, and morphology.
Sperm count is the concentration, or number of sperm per milliliter of semen. Normal concentration is considered anything above 20 million per milliliter. Low sperm count can indicate problems with production, caused by physical, hormonal, or environmental influences. A complete lack of sperm (azoospermia) is generally caused by a blockage, but can also be a symptom of certain rare genetic conditions.
Motility and morphology (movement and shape) of the sperm are also major markers of male infertility. If high numbers of sperm are abnormally shaped or do not move properly, it usually indicates a problem with the production of sperm.
Since sperm quantity and quality can fluctuate, it is recommended that more than one semen analysis be conducted for accurate assessment. If the results are consistently normal, male infertility is ruled out. If the results are abnormal, other tests may be conducted to determine the source of the problem.
A basic physical examination involves the inspection of the male reproductive organs by a urologist or male infertility specialist. The physician will look for irregularities in shape, size, position, or density of the organs. If necessary, an ultrasound may also be performed, in order to evaluate the internal structures as well.
Depending on the results of the semen analysis, blood tests may also be conducted to check for hormonal imbalances or certain genetic conditions. Because these causes of male infertility are less common than others, this testing won't necessarily be performed unless there are other indications.
Common Causes and Treatments
Like female infertility, male infertility can be caused by a wide range of factors. Many of these conditions are relatively common and can be easily treated or overcome with assisted reproductive technology.
A varicocele is a varicose vein in the scrotum. Because the excess blood that pools and backs up in the vein causes overheating, it can diminish the number and quality of sperm cells that are produced. Although varicoceles are not treated at CRM, this common cause of male infertility is easily diagnosed during a physical examination by a urologist and can be corrected surgically.
A blocked or missing vas deferens or epididymis is another potential cause of male infertility. This problem is usually indicated by a semen analysis in which the sperm count is very low or there are no sperm at all. As long as sperm is still being produced, however, it can be collected directly from the testicles for use during in vitro fertilization.
A hormonal imbalance, caused by a gland malfunction, genetic condition, or unhealthy weight, can interfere with sperm production and cause male infertility. Blood tests are used to diagnose hormonal imbalances and treatment may involve medication or lifestyle changes.
Environmental and Lifestyle Factors
Because new sperm cells are constantly being produced, the number and quality of sperm are easily affected by environmental exposure and poor health choices. Smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, certain medications, exposure to toxins, and anything that causes prolonged overheating of the testicles can cause temporary male infertility. Fortunately, the effects can usually be reversed by eliminating the influence.
Contact Our Offices
To learn more about semen analysis or other male infertility topics, contact our Florida practice in Winter Park or Celebration.