How doctors determine infertility
Infertility is the inability to get pregnant after 1 year of unprotected sex. Male infertility would be any issues with the sperm contributing to infertility. For a successful pregnancy, sperm must be healthy enough to reach and fertilize the egg. Factors affecting sperm include sperm count, morphology, and motility.
Factors affecting male infertility
Low sperm count refers to an insufficient amount of sperm per ejaculate. Doctors consider a healthy sperm count to be at least 15 million per millimeter. Each sperm must also have the right shape, called sperm morphology. Poorly-shaped sperm may be unable to fertilize the egg or may be unable to go to full term. Sperm motility means the movement of sperm. More than 40% of sperm should travel well to fertilize the egg in time. Some men have one or more of these issues. Using assisted reproductive technologies, or ART, like IUI, doctors can improve the odds for infertile men.
The first practical step for treatment
Intrauterine insemination or IUI is often the first line of treatment for infertility. This is also one of the oldest forms of treatment, used since the 1700s. The IUI procedure places the sperm directly inside the woman’s uterus for fertilization. A lab takes a sample of sperm and washes the sample to prepare for the process. Then the doctor inserts the sperm directly into the uterus using a catheter. The doctor may also give the woman medication to stimulate ovulation. An IUI is a simple, painless procedure that can be very helpful for motility issues.
Speeding things up with IUI
The IUI procedure works well for men with sperm motility issues. As the problem comes down to poor swimming, an IUI takes clean, healthy sperm straight to the uterus. The sperm still needs to fertilize the egg without assistance. However, the chances of a successful pregnancy improve dramatically as a result. An IUI happens over several rounds and the procedure has a 20% success rate. At the same time, an IUI can create multiple pregnancies. While IUI is less expensive, the success rate is lower compared to other ART procedures. That said, an IUI is a significant first step in male infertility treatment.
What if IUI fails?
There are other steps couples can take to improve the chances of pregnancy. Even before an IUI, doctors will do a full sperm assessment to rule out any added factors affecting sperm. In some cases, doctors may turn to surgery or hormonal treatment. If there are no other health factors, there are more effective types of ART. In vitro fertilization or IVF, for instance, fertilizes both sperm and egg outside the body then reimplants the embryo. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI, takes IVF a step further. Clinics use a single sperm to fertilize the egg. Both treatments have increased success rates.
Male infertility is not a death sentence
Male infertility can be a challenging condition that affects a couple’s chances of conceiving. For men suspecting fertility issues, don’t hesitate to speak with a doctor. The doctor will be able to assess and suggest ways to improve sperm health. If the problem is motility, then a course of IUI may be recommended. This is an effective way to help bring a new bundle of joy into the world. For more information, speak with a fertility specialist.