Male infertility is often overlooked as a potential cause for difficulty in conceiving. Most of the time the female partner is examined, assessed, and investigated to find out whether any conditions, diseases, or abnormalities lie within the anatomy or physiology of these individuals resulting in difficulties with falling pregnant. The importance of male fertility for conception is paramount as without viable sperm an available egg in the female reproductive tract cannot be fertilized for fetal development to begin.
Just over 30 percent of cases of infertility issues lie with male infertility and this is about the same percentage of infertility problems which lie with issues involving the female partner. What this demonstrates is that male infertility is just as an important cause of problematic conception as is female infertility. Male infertility issues can be overcome though by using fertility treatments or by treating any underlying causes. If these are ineffective then other therapies such as sperm extraction can be performed.
Risk factors and causes of male infertility
Certain factors are associated with the development of male infertility and they include the following:
- Being over 40 years of age.
- Having previous or current sexually transmitted diseases.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Excessive intake of alcohol.
- Trauma to the testes.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Varicose veins in the scrotum (varicocele)
Male infertility will be diagnosed through a process known as semen analysis which involves the male partner providing a semen specimen that is then analyzed at a laboratory. Factors that are investigated in this sample include the amount of semen present, how many sperm cells are present, the motility of the sperm, the shape of the sperm, and how many normal and abnormal sperm there are in the sample. A low or zero sperm count, abnormally shaped sperm, sperm with abnormal movements, and decreased semen production may all contribute to male infertility.
Other investigations that are carried out include genetic testing and hormone levels via blood tests and analyzing the urine of the patient to make sure there are no issues such as infections present.
Anatomical evaluation of the testicles via ultrasound or performing a biopsy of the tissue may also need to be performed to check whether there are any abnormalities or problems relating to the male reproductive tract.
In the case of infections resulting in male infertility, treatment with antibiotics may be effective enough to manage the problem. If varicoceles are present these can be removed surgically. Where sperm production is low, medication can be used to help stimulate the production of the sex cells in the testicles.
If these therapies are ineffective, then sperm may have to be extracted and are either deposited in the uterus, or in vitro fertilization may have to be performed where a sperm cell is injected into an egg and deposited in the uterus for implantation.
Sperm extraction to manage male infertility is performed, when the sex cells cannot be ejaculated, by using aspiration techniques to remove sperm from the male genital tract such as the testicle, vas deferens, or epididymus.