Approximately 10% of all couples will face infertility problems while trying to conceive, with male infertility being the cause of almost half of those cases. A couple is considered to be infertile after they have tried unsuccessfully for a year or more to get pregnant. A diagnosis of male infertility can be devastating, but there are several treatments and options available for couple to help them to conceive.
There are dozens of reasons a man may be experiencing infertility. Hormone disorders, a sexually transmitted disease (STD), infections, and trauma to the reproductive organs are among the most common causes for male infertility. Sexual dysfunction, an obstruction, medications, testicular cancer, or other medical conditions, such as sickle cell anemia, can also lead to fertility problems.
When a couple is facing infertility problems, a fertility specialist will check for male infertility first. Male infertility is easier to test for and diagnose; infertility in women is usually more complicated. The first thing s doctor will do is to ask the patient about his medical and sexual history, and then the doctor will perform a physical exam. If everything is normal, the doctor will then schedule the male for semen analysis, which will check the man's sperm for several different properties. The most obvious thing to check for is the number of normal, moving sperm, referred to as concentration, morphology and motility. Some medical conditions can cause a man to produce irregular or deformed sperm that are not capable of fertilizing an egg.
Sperm analysis will also check for the concentration of the semen. If the sperm is physically normal, infertility may be caused by the man's seminal fluid being too thick or thin, preventing the sperm from reaching the egg. The volume of ejaculate will be measured as well. Another medical test for male infertility requires doctors to use a hamster egg to test if the sperm is able to penetrate the walls of a female's egg.
Male infertility is usually treated in one of three ways. The first way is through drug therapy. There are many medications that can boost sperm count, and fight infections that can compromise the health of the sperm. Some conditions, such as obstructions, can be solved through surgery.
The final way is through assisted reproduction. Sperm can be gathered from the man using one of several techniques. The sperm may then be treated, through a wash or a centrifuge, reducing the number of abnormal sperm. After this, the sperm will be combined with an egg through in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). IVF involves combining healthy sperm and several eggs together in a Petri dish, and letting the sperm naturally fertilize the egg. In ICSI, the sperm is inserted into the egg with a needle. This method is usually used when a man's sperm is immobile and unable to fertilize an egg on its own.
There are many treatment options available for men who suffer from infertility. Couples who have been actively trying to conceive for over a year should schedule an appointment with their doctor to discuss the possibility of a fertility problem. Couples who are over the age of 30 should see their doctor after six months of unsuccessful attempts, because most women begin to lose their chance of getting pregnant in their mid-to-late thirties. An early diagnosis gives the couple a better chance of starting a family before the woman begins menopause.