A Workaround For Male Infertility

Although infertility is often thought of as a woman’s issue, men are susceptible to this diagnosis as well. Low or abnormal sperm production, a blockage, certain illnesses, injuries, and chronic health problems can cause male-factor infertility. For men who have trouble making enough sperm or releasing sperm, microscopic testicular sperm extraction (microTESE) can help. The procedure extracts sperm directly from the testicular tissues, increasing the chances of pregnancy using assisted reproductive technology (ART) methods.


A problem with the sperm

For a pregnancy to occur, both egg and sperm are required. For individuals with male-factor infertility, this may be easier said than done. Men can experience low sperm count, where the number of healthy sperm released is low, or poor sperm quality. Some men experience a severe form of infertility known as azoospermia, where there is no sperm at all in the ejaculate. In other instances, a blockage can prevent the sperm from being released and reaching the egg. Although only a single sperm is needed to create a baby, low quantity and quality can severely diminish the chances of pregnancy success.

The power of TESE

A urologist performs the microTESE procedure by making minor cuts in the testicle and removing a small amount of tissue. Next, a microscope examines the tissue and looks for viable sperm. If found, the sperm is collected and combined with an egg or stored for future use. Most men are under general anesthesia for the microTESE procedure and can go home the same day. Risks are rare but can include bleeding, infection, and discomfort.

Success rates

In men with azoospermia undergoing microTESE for the first time, studies show doctors find sperm about 56% of the time. Subsequent biopsies result in slightly lower success rates, with men with 1-2 extractions typically seeing a 51% success rate. If the procedure is not effective, other parenthood routes, such as donor sperm and adoption, can be explored.

Next steps

Once the sperm is extracted, the fertility team will perform IVF to combine the specimen with an egg in the lab. The resulting embryo will then be transferred into the woman’s uterus at a pivotal time in the cycle in hopes of implantation. IUI is another option where concentrated sperm is injected directly into the uterus, but success rates are lower than IVF, so most men with male-factor infertility avoid this option after going through the microTESE procedure.

Pregnancy is still possible

A diagnosis of male-factor infertility can be stressful, but with advances in science, even men with no sperm in the ejaculate can father a child. MicroTESE can find the sperm needed to create an embryo. Harnessing the power of IVF, a healthy baby is possible.

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