Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system that impairs one of the body’s most basic functions: the conception of children. It is defined in practical terms as a couple’s inability to achieve pregnancy after a year of unprotected intercourse.
Male infertility refers to the inability of a male to contribute to conception with a fertile female. Infertility has traditionally been thought of as a woman’s problem, but as it turns out, men don’t get off that easily. About one out of every three cases of infertility is due to the man alone, and men are somehow involved in infertility about half the time.
A diagnosis of male infertility can be one of the hardest challenges a man can face. For some, it can be devastating.
Not being able to father a child can make a man feel like he’s failing at one of his most primal responsibilities. Advances in male infertility treatment offer real help to the males to become fathers. Among couples with infertility, approximately 55% have a female problem, about 45% have a male factor problem and a full quarter (25%) have issues on both sides. The ability to treat female and male infertility in parallel is, therefore, crucial for modern infertility care.
Understanding What is Male Infertility.
Approximately 15 percent of couples are infertile. This means they aren’t able to conceive a child even though they’ve had frequent, unprotected sexual intercourse for a year or longer. In about half of these couples, male infertility plays a role.
Reproduction (or making a baby) is a simple and natural experience for most couples. Male infertility is diagnosed when, after testing of both the partners, reproductive problems have been found in the male partner.
When Should one go for help for Male Infertility?
Unlike female infertility (where irregular periods may hint at a problem), obvious symptoms are not common with male infertility. Most infertility doctors suggest waiting a year before seeking infertility testing. Some health problems may reduce a man’s ability to get a woman pregnant. A visit to the infertility specialist is necessary if you have a history of cystic fibrosis, injury or trauma to the scrotum and testes, problems getting an erection and problems in ejaculating.
The Causes of Male Infertility.
Male infertility has many causes–from hormonal imbalances, to physical problems, to psychological and/or behavioral problems. Moreover, fertility reflects a man’s “overall” health. Men who live a healthy lifestyle are more likely to produce healthy sperm. There are a variety of conditions that may lead to male infertility. The most common cause of male infertility is varicoceles. A varicocele is a varicose vein found in the scrotum. The extra heat caused by the vein can lead to low sperm count and impaired sperm movement.
Potential causes of male infertility are:
1.The complete absence of sperm (azoospermia)
2.Low sperm count (oligospermia)
3.Abnormal sperm shape (teratozoospermia)
4.Problems with sperm movement (asthenozoospermia)
5.Sperm that is completely immobile (necrozoospermia); the sperm may be alive and not moving, or they may be dead
6.Problems with sperm delivery, due to sexual dysfunction, an obstruction, previous vasectomy, or retrograde ejaculation
7.Problems with erections or other sexual problems
A small percentage of male infertility is caused by hormonal problems. The hypothalamus-pituitary endocrine system regulates the chain of hormonal events that enables testes to produce and effectively disseminate sperm. Several things can go wrong with the hypothalamus-pituitary endocrine system.
Some of the lifestyle changes that negatively influence male infertility include smoking, prolonged use of marijuana and other recreational drugs, chronic alcohol abuse, anabolic steroid use, overly intense exercise, inadequate vitamin C and Zinc in the diet, tight underwear, exposure to environmental hazards and toxins, malnutrition and anemia and excessive stress.
Diagnosis of male infertility.
Male infertility is usually diagnosed by a semen analysis. This relatively simple test involves the man providing a semen sample for a lab to evaluate. The lab uses this sample to measure the amount of semen and the number of sperm and to evaluate sperm shape and movement. Most of the time, basic semen analysis is all that’s needed to diagnose male infertility. However, further testing may include:
1. A general physical exam by a urologist
2. Specialized semen analysis, including genetic testing of the sperm (looking for the presence of antibodies) and evaluation of immobile sperm (to see if they are dead or alive)
3. Blood work to check hormone levels, usually of FSH and testosterone, but sometimes also LH, estradiol, or prolactin
4. Genetic karyotyping, if a recurrent miscarriage is a problem
6. Post-ejaculatory urinalysis (urine testing), to check for retrograde ejaculation
7. Testicular biopsy
Treatment of male infertility.
The treatment for male infertility depends on the specific problem. In some severe cases, no treatment is available. However, many times there are a mix of medications, surgical approaches and assisted reproductive techniques (ART) available to overcome many of the underlying fertility problems. The options are:
Surgery: Surgical correction is necessary in order to remove a varicocele, reverse a vasectomy, or repair a duct obstruction.
Medication: Treatment with antibiotics, in cases of infection and Medications or fertility drugs to improve sperm production.
If these techniques fail, fertility specialists have a variety of other high-tech assisted reproductive techniques that promote conception without intercourse. Depending on your problem your physician may advise you to go for IUI, IVF or ICSI treatment.
IUI Treatment: Here the sperm is transferred into the uterus via the cervix directly. IUI is often successful in overcoming sperm count and movement problems, retrograde ejaculation, immunologic infertility and other causes of infertility.
IVF Treatment: IVF treatment may be suggested if IUI is not successful or appropriate, or if female infertility is a contributing problem. While IVF is employed mostly for women with obstructed fallopian tubes, it is occasionally used for men with oligospermia.
ICSI Treatment: This procedure has revolutionized treatment of severe male infertility, permitting couples previously thought infertile to conceive. It involves injecting a single sperm directly into the egg with a microscopic needle and then, once it is fertilized, transferring it to the female partner’s uterus. An infertility specialist is likely to use ICSI if you have very poor semen quality or lack of sperm in the semen caused by an obstruction or testicular failure. In some cases, sperm may be surgically extracted from the testicles or epididymis for this procedure.
However, if none of these options are available, or if they are unsuccessful, fertility doctor may advise you about using a sperm donor, to help build your family.
As stated above, given the proportion of infertile couples with issues on both male and female, the ability to treat female and male infertility in parallel is essential for modern infertility care. The Blossom Fertility and IVF Centre aim to reduce the stress and hassle associated with infertility investigations and treatment, by offering a one-stop diagnostic and treatment service for infertile couples. Blossom Fertility Center has the knowledge and experience to help at least 90% of affected males to become the genetic fathers of their children.
The specialists for Male Fertility at Blossom Fertility and IVF Centre, understand your concerns from an emotional perspective as well as the medical one and are here to help. We offer a unique, comprehensive, team approach to diagnosing and treating male infertility to help you achieve your personal goals and dreams for the future. Rapid research advances in the area of male reproduction have brought about dramatic changes in the ability to both diagnose and treat male infertility. The majority of couples suffering from infertility can now be helped to conceive a child on their own.