By Kelly Walker, MD, Medical Director for Posterity Health
As a reproductive urologist, I specialize in treating male patients who want to get their partner pregnant or preserve their fertility. Even though men are 50% of the fertility equation, the topic of male fertility is not discussed nearly enough or as thoroughly as female fertility. If you’re a male, it’s important to get a semen analysis sooner rather than later.
Here Are 5 Signs That It’s Time For You to Get a Semen Analysis
1. You’ve made the decision as a couple to try to get pregnant.
When couples decide to try to conceive, it’s time for both partners to get their fertility evaluated. For the female, this means a preconception evaluation with her OBGYN or a consultation with a fertility specialist. For the male, this means a semen analysis and a consultation with a male fertility specialist or reproductive urologist. Half of all fertility issues involve a male factor, so getting your partner’s fertility checked at the beginning of your conception journey helps avoid delays that are as likely to occur, statistically, as female factors.
2. You want to proactively understand your fertility.
Dads don’t smoke cigars in the hospital anymore, and they also don’t want to be passive on-lookers during the conception journey. If you’re asking yourself, “what can I do to help?” The answer is simple: get your fertility evaluated. If you’re anxious about masturbating in a doctor’s office or are worried about what you may learn about your swimmers, rest assured that at-home semen analysis kits are available and that many of the most common causes of male infertility are highly treatable. Male partners who are proactive and supportive throughout the conception process are better prepared to share the mental load of parenting, as well. This is a win/win!
3. You and your partner have had recurrent miscarriages, unsuccessful IUI or IVF, or haven’t conceived at all.
While 1 in 6 couples have difficulty getting pregnant, the fact that ⅓ of infertility is male or sperm related, ⅓ is female or egg related, and ⅓ involves issues related to both partners, is less well known. That means if you’re having difficulty getting your partner pregnant, or it is taking longer than you’d hoped, it’s worthwhile to get a semen analysis to determine if there are improvements to be made on the sperm side of things. Those improvements can help optimize your timeline and chance of pregnancy each month, or even improve your success with IUI or IVF.
In cases of recurrent miscarriages, or an unsuccessful IUI or IVF cycle, it’s worth focusing more attention on the male before starting another round of hormone injections. Often, the quality of sperm can be significantly improved through medication, lifestyle changes, and other treatments. This affords the embryologist better suitors from which to choose to fertilize the egg(s). Rejuvenating sperm can take 70-100 days, which could be an unwelcome delay for couples who have been trying to conceive for many months. However, this is a low cost and relatively non-invasive step that can help ensure your next round of IVF or IUI is more successful.
4. You take testosterone or have an issue known to affect male fertility.
Most guys and couples have no idea that many things in their history, ranging from childhood to current lifestyle, can affect sperm production. For example, Testosterone Replacement Therapies have become common among men with symptoms associated with low testosterone. If you have a history of taking testosterone to treat “Low T,” you should get a semen analysis and take steps to optimize your sperm health. Testosterone replacement actually decreases sperm production, and can even make guys sterile, as in zero sperm. In medical terms, this is called azoospermia.
Male fertility specialists and reproductive urologists can help patients address the underlying symptoms that led them to seek testosterone therapy and can recommend treatments to treat “Low T” that will not impact fertility. Other possibilities that affect male fertility include a history of undescended testicles, varicocele (dilated veins in the scrotum), heat exposures, pelvic surgery, and congenital conditions to name just a few. A Posterity Health Male Fertility Workup includes a thorough review of your history to determine if any of these underlying factors are at play.
5. You’re facing chemotherapy, radiation or other treatments that affect fertility.
Whether you have an autoimmune disorder or have been diagnosed with cancer and are preparing for chemotherapy or radiation, it’s important to have your fertility checked as a matter of evaluating your overall reproductive health. Most young, otherwise healthy males who are diagnosed with cancer do not receive fertility counseling prior to starting treatment. Completing a semen analysis helps inform your choices about whether sperm cryopreservation (sperm freezing) is the right choice for your family.
Despite decades of advancement in gender equality in the home and workplace, the responsibility of getting pregnant still falls mainly on the female partner. I am passionate about helping couples get pregnant and assure you it’s never too soon to check the sperm!
Get your at-home or in-clinic semen analysis with Posterity Health today.
Kelly Walker, MD, is a reproductive urologist and serves as the Medical Director for Posterity Health. Dr. Walker completed medical school at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and completed her urology residency at University of California San Francisco and fellowship in male fertility and microsurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She also holds an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and focuses her research on quality improvement and telehealth to deliver exceptional male fertility care.