It’s a common occurrence in my office. The timid couple comes in complaining of infertility. I start asking questions, first focusing on the female partner who provides me detailed information about menstrual cycles, places that hurt, things she’s tried. Then I move on to the male partner who, nine times out of ten, has no clue that he could be part of the problem. Infertility is a female thing, right? Wrong! Male infertility is a very likely cause.
As much as my male counterparts want to stick their head in the sand when it comes to the causes of their infertility, they are actually the problem in at least a third of all infertility workups. That is why we always recommend testing both partners as we begin the diagnostic process. For the male, this starts with testing of his sperm through a semen analysis.
What does it take for sperm to successfully fertilize an egg? First, the man has to have sperm. Second, the sperm has to be ejaculated. Third, the sperm has to reach and penetrate the egg. Any problem with any of these and a couple can be facing infertility issues.
First, the man has to have sperm.
A semen analysis will help us determine your sperm count. A healthy sperm count is above 40 million, and a count of 10 million or less is considered low. Men with sperm counts between 10 and 40 million may still cause a pregnancy if the sperm has good motility (movement) and morphology (shape).
Not producing enough sperm may occur due to a variety of factors including; genetic disorders, testicular trauma, diabetes and obesity. A combination of these factors may also be involved. Patients who have received chemotherapy to treat cancer and other disorders may also have compromised sperm production.
Second, the sperm has to be ejaculated.
Some men struggle with infertility because their reproductive organs have structural or anatomical problems which block the movement of sperm. These problems may be caused by scar tissue, varicose veins (varicocele) or infection or, in some cases, the problems exist from birth, such as being born without a vas deferens. A partner urologist may help us diagnose these conditions that that may need attention. Further, erectile dysfunction may keep you from getting or maintaining an erection, which can also affect fertility.
Third, the sperm has to reach and penetrate the egg.
A semen analysis will also detect problems with sperm motility and morphology. Sperm that have poor motility often are not able to reach the egg and, therefore, fertilization does not occur. Abnormal sperm are sometimes unable to penetrate and fertilize the egg. Sperm DNA damage may interfere with conception as well as lead to a greater risk of miscarriage.
Our reproductive endocrinologists will take active steps to boost your fertility and help you become a father. There are many effective male fertility treatments, from basic IUI to intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) with IVF for men with male infertility. We work in conjunction with many local urologists if surgical intervention is needed to correct structural male infertility prior to other ART procedures.
At Fertility Answers we understand that fertility is a sensitive subject. At our Baton Rouge and Lafayette fertility centers, we provide couples with comprehensive reproductive evaluations and treatment options.