Treating Severe Male-Factor Infertility

Couples who struggle with infertility are often surprised to learn the condition impacts men and women equally. Infertility affects 10% of men trying to conceive, with most cases a result of problems with the sperm. For many, an extremely low sperm count, known as azoospermia, can severely restrict the ability to conceive. In vitro fertilization (IVF) can help with conception, but the addition of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can further increase the chances of success.


What is azoospermia?

When there is no sperm in the ejaculate, a man is said to have azoospermia. A healthy sperm count should be at least 15 million per 1mL of sperm. However, men with azoospermia have no measurable amounts. Doctors consider this condition the most severe form of male-factor infertility. Azoospermia can be obstructive or non-obstructive. Obstructive azoospermia is due to physical damage to the reproductive system. Common causes include varicocele, an obstruction of the epididymis, or issues with the vas deferens. Non-obstructive azoospermia is due to advanced age, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or an injury. There are also genetic conditions like Klinefelter syndrome, where men have an additional X chromosome, severely limiting the natural function of the reproductive system.

Treatment options

Men with suspected azoospermia should get a physical test and semen analysis to confirm the diagnosis and determine the cause of the condition. Obstructive azoospermia may be resolved with surgery. However, if there is no obstruction, the fertility clinic may suggest IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection. This approach only requires a single sperm in the embryo creation process. In other words, ICSI bypasses the need for sperm to fertilize the egg naturally by injecting the sperm directly into the egg with special tools.

ICSI benefits

For patients with azoospermia, ICSI provides several benefits. Studies show that ICSI can increase the chances of pregnancy. There is also a reduced chance of complications like miscarriages as the best embryo is selected should multiple be created. Research also shows there are low rate of birth defects with ICSI. Most importantly for men with azoospermia, only a single sperm is needed.

Azoospermia is not the end

An extremely low sperm count can cause significant stress for men trying to start or grow a family. Male factor infertility is a serious concern, but there are procedures and strategies that work. ICSI is a great medical procedure requiring just a single sperm to work. A fertility clinic can provide the best advice based on the patient’s diagnosis and test results.

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