What’s causing your infertility woes?
For a successful pregnancy, a healthy sperm must reach the egg in a woman’s fallopian tubes. Fertility issues arise if there is a poor sperm count, sperm volume, shape, and speed. There are a few reasons behind male factor infertility:
- A physical blockage, caused by a condition called varicocele.
- Hormone changes can affect the quantity and quality of sperm.
- Erectile dysfunction or retrograde ejaculation can affect fertility.
- Genetic defects can make conceiving difficult.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections may affect sperm movement and quality.
A doctor will start with a series of physical exams to rule out issues like varicocele. However, exams like hormone tests and a testicular biopsy can be very effective.
Let’s look at hormones
A doctor will request a hormone test, which can happen by taking a blood sample for analysis. The test will look at hormones like testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Each of these hormones plays a vital role in reproduction:
- FSH helps the testes create healthy sperm.
- LH helps with testosterone production.
- Testosterone impacts sperm health as well as libido and overall sexual function.
- Low T3 and T4 thyroid hormones can lead to infertility.
These hormones should fall within particular markers. Based on the results, the doctor can prescribe medication or Assisted Reproductive Technology.
Do you need a biopsy?
If sperm analysis is inconclusive, the doctor will request a testicular biopsy. The testicular biopsy takes a tissue sample of a testicle for analysis. The biopsy has several uses. If there is an abnormally low sperm count or an absence of sperm, the test can diagnose the underlying cause. Biopsies also help to test for testicular cancer or extract sperm in certain cases for IVF. The doctor can use a small needle through the testicle to extract the tissue. In some cases, the doctor makes an incision to remove a bit of testicular tissue.
Getting the results of your biopsy
The doctor will outline the instructions, possible risks, and aftercare for the biopsy. The tissue sample is sent to a lab to analyze under a microscope, with results in a few days. If the sperm is in good health, but previous semen analysis shows no sperm, there could be a blockage. Common blockages include varicocele or obstructions in the vas deferens. If the sperm is abnormal, the reasons could range from hormonal imbalances, damage from previous surgeries, or tumors.
Time for the next steps
Male fertility testing can help with treatment to give men the best possible chances of pregnancy. The results will determine the type of treatment needed. Some men would require minimally invasive surgery to clear blockages preventing sperm from leaving the testicles. Medication can help with hormone issues to improve LH or FSH production. If these treatments fail, assisted reproductive treatments can help. The doctor may suggest IVF or ICSI, often using sperm from the sample in the biopsy.
Male fertility tests work
Infertility is not the end of the road for family planning. There are options available, but these options start with fertility testing. A hormone test can reveal issues with essential hormones in sperm production. If these tests are inconclusive, a testicular biopsy can get to the bottom of the issue. From there, the right treatment can increase pregnancy rates. Get the process started by speaking with a reproductive specialist.
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