Reasons for unexplained male infertility
Men with unexplained infertility have no apparent defects in a standard semen analysis. The sperm count, sperm shape, and motility are all within acceptable markers. The man is also generally in good health. Idiopathic infertility does not mean there is no issue, but rather that the problem cannot be identified using standard testing. For instance, there could be a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) issue, sperm allergy, or anti-sperm antibodies. There may also be subtle hormonal changes, an underlying autoimmune disease, or erectile dysfunction (ED) impacting the patient. An idiopathic infertility diagnosis is frustrating, but a fertility clinic will assure the patient that pregnancy is possible.
Treating the underlying issue
While an issue may not be identified with standard tests, an underlying cause is at play. The medical team will recommend lifestyle changes and fertility medications as a first-line treatment option. Adopting a healthy diet, exercise, adequate hydration, and supplementation can all help. Doctors also typically recommend reducing stress and quitting smoking and alcohol. The medical team will encourage the couple to keep trying in the following months.
Is ART a solution?
If lifestyle changes are ineffective, the fertility team will often recommend ART, a series of procedures to improve the chances of pregnancy. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most popular ART option for couples with unexplained infertility. With IVF, a sperm and egg sample are combined to create embryos in a fertility laboratory. From there, a mature, healthy embryo is surgically implanted in the woman’s uterus. IVF has a high success rate for men with unexplained infertility.
A single sperm
For male-factor infertility, the clinic may take an additional step with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to increase the chances of success. ICSI is the process of injecting a single sperm into the retrieved egg to help create an embryo. The fertility clinic can choose the best sperm from the sample provided. From there, an embryologist can use a micropipette to inject the sperm into the egg. The outcome is the same as IVF, but the chances of successful fertilization increase.
Don’t give up hope
An unexplained infertility diagnosis can damage confidence and give the impression that starting a family is hopeless. Despite the challenges, there are ways to overcome this diagnosis. IVF and ICSI offer promising results. If such ART treatments fail, the fertility doctor and patient can discuss options like donor sperm. With time, fertility clinics can pinpoint the reason for infertility in all cases.