Causes of male infertility
Many different problems can cause male infertility. Low sperm count, abnormal sperm function, blockages, illness, injuries, and certain lifestyle choices like smoking can all contribute to an infertility diagnosis. If a problem is anticipated, the first step is to get a semen analysis ordered by a doctor. This test measures the quantity and quality of the sperm by looking at factors like count, concentration, volume, motility, and morphology. Based on the results, an exact diagnosis can be given or further testing may be ordered.
Start with IUI
For many couples pursuing ART, intrauterine insemination is an excellent place to start. During this procedure, washed and concentrated sperm are placed directly into the uterus, increasing the chances of pregnancy. Intrauterine insemination can be a great option for couples with unexplained infertility. Men with low sperm count, weak motility, and morphology problems may also benefit from IUI, as good sperm can be separated out for use. If a man cannot produce any sperm and a sperm donor is needed, IUI can also help.
The IVF approach
Some couples may need more advanced fertility interventions, where in vitro fertilization comes into play. Men with a very low sperm count, typically defined as less than 15 million sperm, usually do best with IVF. This is because the best sperm from the sample can be concentrated during IVF and placed close to the egg in the lab. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can also be added to IVF to improve success rates. During ICSI, one healthy sperm is injected directly into the egg, improving the chances of creating a healthy embryo. When both the woman and man have fertility problems, IVF is also preferred.
Both ART approaches to pregnancy have pros and cons. IVF is more likely to work but is much more expensive. With IVF, the woman’s partner will be much more involved, requiring bloodwork, ultrasounds, and medication before the egg retrieval. IUI is a less invasive, cost-efficient approach but has lower success rates. The fertility specialist can recommend the most appropriate procedure depending on the exact diagnosis.
Pregnancy is possible
Getting a diagnosis of infertility can be difficult for men. However, solutions are available. Both IUI and IVF can help most men with infertility conceive. Even with a low sperm count, pregnancy is still possible when the right fertility intervention is used.