Men often ask me this question when they visit for their initial consultation. “But I feel fine”, “There is nothing wrong with me!” or “I’ve had a child before, so I don’t need one”- these are also common responses when men are asked to have their sperm tested. And they may be correct, but it is important to check. It is sometimes surprising to couples that roughly 40% of the time, infertility lies with the male.
During basic fertility testing, men are required to submit a sperm sample for analysis. By comparison, women must undergo blood work, ultrasounds, and radiology tests. So gents, how bad can one test be?
The semen analysis is used to check for any male factor fertility issues that can contribute to a couples’ infertility. Regardless of whether a man has previously fathered a child, the semen analysis still needs to be performed since we all age and our bodies change. A man may not display any clinical symptoms of infertility, so measures must be taken to assure that all bases are covered. After all, we do treat patients as couples.
Some of the parameters that are checked in a semen analysis include: volume, sperm count, motility (movement), and morphology (shape) of the sperm. It can detect abnormalities or the existence of infection that is producing white blood cells in the semen. It can also determine the maturity of the sperm being produced. Most men collect the semen via ejaculation into a clean sample cup which can either be obtained from any one of our office locations or at most pharmacies. Additionally, sterile latex free condoms can also be used. Following ejaculation, the entire condom is placed into the collection container.
Prior to producing a sample, a man should ideally abstain from ejaculation 2-3 days prior to collection for the actual test, but never more than 5 days. From the time of collection, the patient has about 60-90 minutes to get the specimen to the office for analysis. It is best not to expose the sample to extreme temperatures, which is often achieved by transporting the specimen container in close contact with the body to maintain a stable temperature.
Once a specimen is delivered for analysis to our andrology lab, results are often available for the physician within 3-5 business days. It is imperative to understand that the individual parameters of a semen analysis can vary significantly, so it is not uncommon to have more than one test performed. If the results of the analysis show abnormal levels, it may indicate the need for further testing of hormones and genetics. Sometimes it warrants a visit to a fertility urologist who specializes in assisting with male infertility.
The silver lining is that today there are very effective treatments for male factor infertility, many of which we offer at Shady Grove Fertility. Some of these treatment options include intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). ICSI is achieved by infusing a single sperm with a woman’s egg to ensure fertilization.
It often comes as a shock to many men that the prevalence of male infertility is so frequent; probably because it isn’t a topic eagerly discussed amongst men, or couples even. But in keeping with our goals to treat patients as couples, it is very important to know exactly what a couple is dealing with in order to make the most effective and optimal treatment plan possible, so men – have no fear. By contributing in this small fashion, we can help both you and your partner have the family you both desire.