Testing for Male Infertility
“…your sperm are really a good bellwether for how the rest of your body is…”
This is a wonderful quote, spoken by Dr. Jesse Mills in an absolutely hilarious, but meaningful, video posted by The Try Guys. It’s titled, “The Try Guys Test Their Sperm Count” and if you’re needing a lighter take on a very serious topic, we suggest you start there.
Testing Male Infertility Is Equally As Important As Female Infertility Testing
While you’re guaranteed to laugh, The Try Guys video also has some really great information regarding sperm and what we’re looking for when it comes to male infertility factors. Men are often reticent to have their sperm tested for a few reasons, and this reticence can seriously hinder their ability to conceive a baby with their partner.
The three most common reasons men drag their heels when it comes to fertility testing are:
- Society places more emphasis on the female. For reasons we won’t go into, women still bear the bulk of responsibility when it comes to fertility even though science has made it clear that the percentage of individuals diagnosed with infertility is split equally between men and women. Men often assume there’s no problem. While getting an erection and ejaculating ARE one part of the equation, there’s a lot more than needs to be in place for an egg to be fertilized. And, since sperm aren’t visible to the naked eye – you have no idea whether the rest of the equation is in place or not.
- Men fear the stigma of infertility. Men equate their masculinity with the size and strength of all their parts – both exterior and interior. For many, there is a direct correlation between the news that they have low sperm count, or that something is wrong with their sperm, and their ability to be a man. This couldn’t be further than the truth. Some causes of male infertility can be reversed, so the sooner you know the truth, the better.
- They’re embarrassed. On this one, we can all agree: masturbating in a public space (even if it’s behind closed doors) and on command, and into a cup, while doctors are waiting is not the most attractive or sexy proposition. But, to be honest, the woman in your life has experienced years of laying on a table and having her inner-most parts probed and tested for annual OB/GYN exams – not to mention the testing required for infertility. So, take a deep breath or five, and invite your natural embarrassment take a back-burner for the sake of the team.
Testing For Male Infertility Is Best Done At an Infertility Clinic
While it’s true that your GP can do a sperm analysis, the results may not be entirely accurate. We’ve had plenty of couples come in through the years with a “normal sperm count,” as per their GP’s sperm analysis interpretation. The thing is, the technicians that perform sperm analysis in the average medical lab are great at testing for sperm count, but they’re not as expert at analyzing sperm morphology (the way sperm are shaped) or sperm motility (the way sperm move).
Thus, a man with a high sperm count can potentially be the cause of infertility if his sperm have other issues that prevent them from reaching the egg and/or penetrating its outer membrane. Sperm analysis results will be the most accurate if they are performed by a fertility specialist. If it turns out that something is awry, the specialist can work right away to identify any potential causes and/or treatments. If there are none, we can move on to Plan B, which typically involves some form of fertility treatment.
What Does Male Infertility Mean?
Most of the time, a male infertility diagnosis indicates there are not enough sperm and/or that too many of the sperm available aren’t able to perform the job. If we find this to be the case, there are several options.
If we feel lifestyle is an issue, we will counsel you and support you as you make some adjustments and see if that’s enough to do the trick. Sometimes, there is an anatomical reason why sperm can’t make it into the semen, although that is more rare.
In cases of low sperm count, poor motility and/or poor morphology, we may use sperm samples and “wash” them, isolating the healthiest sperm and using them in conjunction with fertility medications, IUI or IVF, depending on your ages and any potential female infertility factors. The key is to get in touch with a fertility clinic sooner rather than later so you have time on your side.
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RRC has over 200 years of combined experience. As a leading reproductive health, infertility, and in-vitro fertilization (or IVF) center based in Kansas City, we're proud to have the highest level of expertise available to our patients.