Male factor infertility (low sperm counts or an abnormal semen analysis result) is very common, and with appropriate treatment is often reversible.
So, you just got your semen analysis results back, and wait a minute… volume, count, concentration, motility, morphology… low or abnormal numbers, now what?
While nearly every guy feels like they are the first to ever experience fertility issues, you are most definitely not alone! Also remember, male infertility is a medical issue – not a measure of masculinity. In fact, when a couple has difficulty getting pregnant (and 1 in 8 couples have trouble), about 50% of the time male factor is involved.
Getting pregnant is a highly complicated process, including on the guy’s side, involving intricate anatomical structures, sophisticated hormone signaling, constant sperm production, and a winding route to for the sperm to make their way into the world. Whew! No wonder there are numerous points along this pathway with sperm production or delivery that can decrease your ability to get pregnant.
In this post, we’ll provide an all-encompassing rundown of male infertility, including an explanation of why assessing for male factor is important, how to evaluate for male infertility (hint – it’s that semen analysis, but so much more), and what you and your doctor can do about it.
Infertility is defined as a couple’s inability to achieve pregnancy following one year of unprotected intercourse. Many couples undergo a fertility evaluation earlier if the female partner is over 35 years old, or there are specific risk factors for underlying infertility on either the male or female side. A male fertility evaluation is not only recommended by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the leading authority on all things infertility, but can be a game changer.
Knowledge about your health is empowering for so many reasons. First, it can be a lifesaver, yea that’s a big one. Studies have shown significant medical conditions are present in up to 10% of infertile men. And these conditions would only have been diagnosed with a complete medical evaluation. Second, underlying causes of male infertility are often reversible! That’s right, anything from hormone imbalances that can be treated with medication to anatomical variations that can be treated with a surgical procedure. Third, improving male factor and your semen analysis through appropriate treatment could save you and your partner from needing invasive and expensive assisted reproductive technology like IVF or In Vitro Fertilization.
“Okay, I get it, male factor is a major contributor to couples having difficulty getting pregnant and dealing with infertility, but now what?” Now pat yourself on the back and pull up a chair because you are about to not only enlighten yourself about your health but empower your relationship as a fully fledged participant in getting to parenthood, cause after all that’s how you ended up here.
The initial male evaluation, done by a doctor specially trained in male fertility, involves a thorough history, yep going all the way back to childhood. This discussion, often organized around a questionnaire, will help your doctor pinpoint anything from your past that points towards a reason for sperm problems today. Then, an in-depth discussion of lifestyle factors – this is no time to be shy or downplay any of your habits. This is a judgement free zone, and an honest discussion will help your doctor be able to provide recommendations that can ultimately improve your sperm quantity and quality. Next is the ‘check under the hood’ aka the physical exam, a quick and painless check on all the complex anatomical structures that make and transport sperm. During the exam, your doctor can identify suspected areas of blockage preventing sperm from getting out into the world, anatomical variations that affect sperm production, or a host of other conditions that are paramount to figuring out how to optimize your chances of getting pregnant.
Next steps will depend on your doctor’s conclusions about potential factors contributing to the abnormal semen analysis and difficulty getting pregnant. But most importantly, every single recommendation, and decision will be individually crafted for you and your partner depending on your values, priorities, timeline, and well, everything about how you want to become parents.
A male evaluation should be part of every couple’s fertility journey because male factor infertility – low sperm counts, or an abnormal semen analysis – is incredibly common. With the right team of specialists, including a Posterity Health provider, you can become empowered to learn about your health and improve your fertility to ultimately become a parent.
So, schedule your Baseline Assessment to learn more about your reproductive health, including a semen analysis. Or schedule a Comprehensive Evaluation to better understand your abnormal semen analysis results and what our team can do to help.