One third of all infertility cases have been linked solely to issues with the male partner. Male infertility is a condition where the male in a relationship affects the child bearing ability of the woman. When couples are not able to conceive even after having unprotected sex over a long period of time, it is important that men get screened for fertility as well as women.
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
A diagnosis is often made by your doctor 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.
With the advancements in medical technology, it is now possible to treat this condition. Treatment options include
- 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 can 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.