Male Fertility Testing Overview from a Denver Fertility Clinic
- Posted on: Jan 30 2014
Many people still think of infertility as a woman’s problem, although 50% of infertility issues are related to the male. One third of male infertility cases are attributed to issues such as low sperm count, and this is why it is so critical for men to be tested for infertility when conception difficulties arise. While many men consider infertility embarrassing, earlier discovery of male infertility issues mean greater possibility of solving the issues and conceiving a healthy child. Male infertility testing also spares the woman expensive, extensive, and uncomfortable testing.
The male infertility evaluation is similar to the woman’s initial evaluation in that it includes full medical and reproductive history. The primary care physician will refer the man to an urologist for this initial evaluation, which includes medical and reproductive history, surgical history, medication history, questions about lifestyle such as drug use, smoking, and exercising, an in-depth physical examination, and a discussion with doctor about sexual history and sexually transmitted diseases. During this evaluation, the male will be asked to provide a sample of semen for analysis. The semen should be tested quickly to preserve functionality.
Male infertility specialists differ in their approach to testing for infertility. Some of the testing that can be expected includes tests on the man’s sperm count, sperm movement, sperm shape, and other variables that may also affect fertility. In general terms, a higher number of sperm means higher fertility. This is not always the case however, and many men with low sperm counts are still fertile. This is also the probability of abnormally shaped sperm. About 15% of men, who are tested and have normal shaped sperm and normal sperm motility, are still infertile.
Usually, the doctor will order the first test to check for sperm shape, motility, and more. If this comes back as normal, then the doctor will order a second test on the sperm. If the second analysis comes back normal, then it is assumed that there is no issue with infertility. If the doctor sees something in the analysis that looks odd, that doctor may request more testing to investigate the problem. Low sperm counts are representative of low testosterone levels, which can result from thyroid dysfunction, but not always.
If the semen is tested and no sperm is found, this condition is called azoospermia and is easily fixed. When no semen is discovered, this means that there is a blockage that should be corrected with surgery. Once the blockage is corrected however, a sperm analysis must be performed to verify the presence of sperm in the semen.
Other tests may also be conducted to determine issues with infertility. Hormone evaluation is another type of test to determine sperm production and if too little or too much hormones are being produced. Hormones are usually not the culprit for male infertility, with just 3% of the male population suffering from hormonal infertility. The hormone tests performed could include luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, testosterone testing, and prolactin testing.
Luteinizing hormone is essential for reproduction as is follicle stimulating hormone. If high levels are found, this is an indication of testicular function which may not respond to hormone therapy. If low levels are found, this is an indication that the testes are not receiving an adequate amount of stimulation from the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland. Lower levels are much easier to treat than higher levels of hormone. Finally, a high prolactin level can correlate with abnormal semen production. Treatment for elevated levels of prolactin is available and very effective. In the event that your hormones are tested and come back normal, you may want to consider genetic testing as a last resort to rule out a generic component to male infertility.
Posted in: Infertility Treatment