When we think about infertility, we generally associate it with a woman being incapable of child-bearing. In reality, infertility issues affect men just as much as they affect women.
Lifestyle: So many things affect fertility that we may not realize – alcohol, tobacco, drugs, anabolic steroids, testosterone replacements, significant weight gain or loss, and sexually transmitted infections. A doctor can help explain what needs to be done to change these.
Varicoceles: These are large veins in the scrotum, similar to varicose veins. They raise the temperature, which is a no-no concerning sperm. Some treatments include surgery to repair the veins and or other ways to fertilize the female like IVF.
Ejaculation Issues: A blocked or damaged passageway can prevent the ejaculate fluid from getting to where it needs to go. There are surgeries to repair the tract.
Sperm Count/Motility Issues: Issues with sperm size, speed, and quantity can sometimes be fixed with fertility drugs or seek out sperm donors. Sometimes these problems are caused by hormone imbalances or disease, so see a doctor to get those regulated.
Antibodies: Some genital imbalance/trauma like vasectomy, testicular torsion, or infection can cause your body to develop antibodies that attack your sperm. A prednisone-like steroid can help inhibit these antibodies, but a more permanent solution would be IVF or ICSI (intractoplasmic sperm injection).
Types of Tests
Typically, men focus first on lifestyle and medical history first. As stated above, many things can affect fertility, and luckily, these are often easier to handle.
Next, the men provide a semen sample, which is then analyzed for sperm count, shape, appearance, and sperm motility. Your urologist may investigate further with physical exams, bloods tests, or an ultrasound.
In vitro fertilization can help most of the problems described above. Within IVF, eggs and sperm are both extracted and combined. The fertilized embryo is then injected back into the female. This can help men with low sperm count and motility, as they don’t need to travel far.
Intrauterine insemination is similar, in that it helps men with low sperm count and motility. The process uses a catheter to inject a concentrated sperm sample director into the woman’s uterus, increasing the chance that they’ll find the egg.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is typically added to an in vitro fertilization cycle to help with male fertility problems. This isolates a single sperm to be injected into a single egg, marginalizing the room for error. Unfortunately this can mean a microscopic needle pulling sperm from a testicle, but it doesn’t hurt that much! Though you should avoid strenuous activity for about a week.
Infertility is more common than you’d think, and it’s important to remember that it can affect men just as easily as it can affect women. Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner or doctor if you think there might be something wrong, there are tons of treatment options available to help overcome male infertility.
Written by: Joanna Hynes