Understanding Male-Factor Infertility
Every year, infertility affects 15% of couples. Infertility is the inability to get pregnant naturally after one year of trying. Surprisingly, about one-third of these cases are due to male-factor infertility. The woman has a healthy reproductive system, but the man has one or more problems preventing pregnancy. Once a reproductive specialist finds the root cause, treatment options can help.
What’s the cause?
To find the root cause, a doctor will perform sperm analysis, blood tests, and physical tests. These checks can reveal various problems such as a low sperm count, sperm motility, or sperm shape, signs of erectile dysfunction, blockage of sperm due to conditions like varicocele or infection or any hormone imbalances that cause low or no sperm production. If one or more of these issues arise, pregnancy through sexual intercourse can be difficult.
Simple changes, massive results
Most doctors would recommend some lifestyle changes to increase the chances of pregnancy. For instance, studies have shown that weight loss can significantly improve the chances of pregnancy. Other changes include reducing smoking, and alcohol consumption and adopting anti-inflammatory diets. Making these changes along with trying naturally over several months can help.
Balancing your hormones
Hormones like testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH) work together for sperm production. If tests reveal a hormone imbalance, a doctor can recommend hormone medication. Hormone medication can increase FSH and LH, which will increase testosterone. As a result, the patient should see improved sperm production, increasing the chances of pregnancy.
Can surgery help?
Some men have healthy sperm and a high sperm count. However, a blockage could prevent sperm production, the sperm from combining with seminal fluid. If there is a physical issue, surgery can help. For instance, if the patient has a varicocele, an outpatient procedure can help repair the veins. After recovery, the patient should improve the chances of pregnancy in a few months.
Turning to ART
There are cases where infertility is unexplained. The patient has a healthy reproductive system and sperm yet is still unable to start a family. At this point, assisted reproductive technology (ART) can help. ART is a range of infertility treatments where the sperm or egg is handled outside of the body by a fertility clinic. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a typical example. The doctor will take a washed sperm sample directly into the woman’s uterus using a small catheter. IUI happens during ovulation and has high success rates over several cycles.
IVF and ICSI
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the gold standard of ART. With IVF, a clinic combines a sperm and egg sample in a lab to create an embryo. The mature embryo is then implanted in the uterus using a simple outpatient procedure. The fertility clinic will suggest intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) in some male infertility cases. With ICSI, the clinic injects a solitary sperm into the egg during the IVF process. Both ICSI and IVF can work with donor sperm, donor eggs, or surrogacy.
Infertility is not the end
Male-factor infertility can be challenging and stressful. Some men feel there is no hope to start or grow a family. The best course of action is to visit a reproductive specialist. These specialists will find the root cause and help with treatment. Even if there is no apparent issue, procedures like IUI, IVF, and ICSI can help. These are some of the best options available today.