Infertility: It Takes Two
Up to 15 out of every 100 couples are infertile. Infertility means that a couple is unable to get pregnant, even after having unprotected sex frequently for a year or longer. Of these couples, over a third are dealing with male factor infertility. About half of couples have infertility problems due to a combination of male and female infertility, or due to unknown causes. Though infertility can be challenging and stressful, there are treatment options. Below are 3 of the most common treatments for male factor infertility.
Start investigating: find out why
Treatments for male factor infertility begin with a series of tests and assessments. These tests look for signs of hormonal imbalances and collect a full health history. Male factor infertility can be caused by certain childhood illnesses, such as the mumps, genetic disorders, chronic health conditions, physical problems with the testicles, or sperm duct blockages. Identifying the underlying cause of infertility will determine which treatment is most effective.
A possible first step
In milder cases of male factor infertility, a first plan of treatment may include intrauterine insemination (IUI). IUI involves a process of sperm washing with the goal of creating a concentrated, more viable sperm sample. This can be effective for men whose infertility is due to low sperm mobility, low sperm count, or abnormalities in sperm size or shape. The washed sperm is then placed in the uterus near the one or two eggs that have been released in ovulation.
Treatment for moderate to severe cases
In moderate to severe cases, male factor infertility can be treated with in vitro fertilization (IVF) with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In ICSI procedures, an embryologist injects concentrated sperm into the center of an egg. This process is done in a lab and is extremely effective for male factor infertility, even in cases where there is very little to no sperm in a man’s ejaculate. Often, the sperm for ICSI is collected through sperm extraction.
The best treatment for low sperm
Sometimes, male factor infertility occurs because a man cannot release healthy sperm naturally, either due to low production, duct blockages, or other factors. In many of these cases, a physician will recommend testicular sperm extraction (TESE). In this procedure, a physician obtains sperm from a small tissue sample of the testis to use in an IVF or ICSI procedure. TESE is one of the most effective ways to gather sperm.
Though infertility can be stressful, couples should not give up hope. There are treatment options. Couples dealing with male factor infertility should discuss with their doctor whether IUI, ICSI, or sperm extraction may be right for them.