Male infertility is a common reproductive problem affecting men. It is a condition where the male in the relationship affects the ability of the woman to become pregnant. When couples are not able to conceive even after having unprotected sex over a long period of time, it is important for both partners to be checked by their physician. Up to 1 out of 3 infertility cases are linked partly to issues with the male partner. A number of tests are performed to help confirm the diagnosis of male infertility.
With the advancements in medical technology, it is now possible to treat the condition of male infertility.
Causes of male infertility:
Male fertility may be impaired by a number of factors. These include:
- Sperm production problems: The quality and quantity of sperm are the key factors to male fertility. Any defect such as immature sperm or low sperm count (oligospermia) can lead to infertility.
- Varicoceles: This is a condition characterized by swelling of the veins that supply the testicle.
- Backward ejaculation of the sperm
- Blockage of the sperm carrying ducts
- Development of sperm antibodies (auto-immune disorder)
- Hormonal/stress problems
- Infections/tumours of the male reproductive system
- Genetics (chromosomal disorders)
- Sexual problems
- Use of certain medications such as steroids
- Excessive radiation exposure affects the sperm production.
- Work related causes (example: laptop use elevates the temperature of the testes leading to low sperm production)
- Smoking and alcohol abuse
Your doctor will make the diagnosis of male infertility based on the following:
- Medical history
- Complete physical examination
- Semen analysis: This is a laboratory test carried out to assess the sperm count and quality. The test sample is obtained by ejaculating into a sterile bottle.
- Transrectal ultrasound of the prostate: It is an investigation carried out to evaluate the prostate gland and detect any obstruction of the ducts that transport the sperm.
- Scrotal ultrasound: This is an imaging test to diagnose abnormalities of the scrotum or testicles.
- Testicular biopsy: A small piece of tissue is removed from the testicle using a sterile needle and sent for evaluation under a microscope to help determine the cause of infertility.
- Anti-sperm antibody tests to trace the antibodies that attack sperm.
- Surgery: Surgery is indicated in cases of varicocele and obstruction of the sperm duct to improve the sperm motion.
- Medications: Antibiotics are prescribed to treat infections of the reproductive system.
- Treatment for sexual problems: Counselling about sex and relationships can help boost fertility levels.
- Male hormone replacement therapy may be used to treat hormonal deficiency.
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART): These are revolutionary treatment procedures that help couples with infertility problems to conceive. Some of them include in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) methods.
- Lifestyle modification: These include changing habits such as not smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and using stress reduction techniques.