As they say, it takes two to tango. Fertility is a 50-50 deal. It takes an egg and a sperm. So when it comes to fertility, it should be no shock that about 50% of infertility challenges come from the man. This means it is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with male infertility tests.
This is not about placing blame, but if you and your partner are struggling to get pregnant, both of you must get infertility tests. Here are the seven things you need to know about male fertility tests.
Factors That Can Affect Male Fertility
Research shows that male infertility affects up to 6 percent of American Men. The exact causes of any individual case of male infertility are varied;
- genetic or anatomical abnormalities
- neurological and systemic diseases
- sperm antibodies
- gonadotoxic radiation therapy
Get an Evaluation From a Urologist
The first step is getting an evaluation from a urologist. A urologist is a doctor who specializes in the kidney, urinary bladder, adrenal glands, urethra, and male reproductive organs (collectively known as the genitourinary tract). This doctor is a specialist in male fertility.
Your urologist will ask you questions about your lifestyle and medical history. Common questions will be about surgeries you have had, medications you take, your exercise and diet habits, and whether or not you smoke or take drugs.
You can also expect a frank discussion about your sex life, including if you have ever had any sexually transmitted diseases.
Finding the cause of male infertility can be challenging. Urologists have several different infertility tests for men they will use to solve the issue.
Sperm and Semen Analysis
You will be asked to provide a semen sample for analysis. An analyst will check the sample for sperm count, shape, movement, and other important characteristics.
Normal sperm densities range from 15 million to more than 200 million sperm per milliliter of semen. If you have a sperm count in this range, with normally shaped sperm, you likely have higher fertility.
However, there are exceptions. About 15% of infertile men have a normal sperm count.
It is not uncommon for your doctor to order two semen tests, even if the first analysis is normal, just to confirm the results. Two normal tests most likely mean you do not have any major infertility problems.
If there is something in your test that is unusual your doctor will undertake more tests to find the issue.
In some cases, tests may show that you have no sperm in your semen or no semen at all. This can be caused by a blockage that can be fixed with surgery.
Physical Exam and Imaging
A sperm analysis is only one of many types of male infertility tests. Your urologist will conduct a physical exam, including both a genital exam and a digital rectal exam, to assess your prostate. Your doctor will be looking for varicoceles, abnormal formations of veins above the testicles.
Your doctor may also order imaging studies to ensure your anatomy is fine.
Most common are the scrotal ultrasound and the transrectal ultrasound.
In a scrotal ultrasound, a handheld probe is swept across your scrotum. This scan uses high-frequency waves to identify infections, cysts, collections of fluid, and tumors.
For a transrectal ultrasound, a small, lubricated wand is inserted into your rectum. This helps your doctor check your prostate and ensure there are no blockages in the vas deferens.
They will evaluate all elements of the genitourinary system. Any issues that are found are likely to be easily resolved with surgery.
Testosterone and other hormones control the making of the sperm. However, only about 3% of infertility problems in men are caused by hormone issues.
Your doctor may still order hormone infertility tests for males just to be sure. Hormone tests are easily done with a simple blood test. Your doctor will likely be evaluating the following hormones;
The FSH hormone contributes to sperm production. High levels could indicate that your testicles are not working correctly, likely due to being damaged by disease, chemotherapy, or x-rays. Low levels show you aren't producing any sperm.
The LH hormone is produced in the pituitary gland and binds to receptors in the testes to release testosterone, which is needed to produce sperm. Testing for LH helps the doctor identify if the issue is in your pituitary gland or another part of the body.
A healthy male will have testosterone levels between 300 and 1,000 nanograms per deciliter. If your testosterone levels are low, this could be the cause of a lower sperm count.
Genetic testing for male fertility is relatively new, and experts differ on if genetic tests should be done. That said, genetic issues are found in between 10 and 20% of men who have sperm production disorders.
Genetic testing helps rule out chromosomal abnormalities. This is especially important in men with either azoospermia, which is no sperm present, or oligozoospermia, a very low sperm count.
These tests will help you avoid unnecessary surgery or medical treatments and help make an informed decision on the next step.
Sperm typically stays isolated from the rest of your body, and if it does come into contact with your body the immune system is likely to have an immune response, producing anti-sperm antibodies.
Sperm is only likely to come into contact with the body due to a prior injury, surgery or trauma.
To test for anti-sperm antibodies requires a sperm sample. The higher the level of sperm affected by antibodies, the lower the chance of a sperm fertilizing an egg.
The anti-sperm antibodies can also be found in women so, it is possible your doctor will ask your partner to get checked also.
Getting Male Infertility Tests
If you and your partner are struggling to get pregnant, you should visit your doctor and urologist to find the cause. Remember that men are responsible for about 50% of infertility challenges. Just know that finding the cause of male infertility can be a complex process and can take several male infertility tests.
Ulta Lab Tests offers tests that are highly accurate and reliable so you can make informed decisions about your health. Here are a few great things to love about Ulta Lab Tests:
- You'll get secure and confidential results
- You don't need health insurance
- You don't need a physician's referral
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Order your lab tests for infertility today and your results will be provided to you securely and confidentially online in 24 to 48 hours for most tests.
Take control with Ulta Lab Tests today!