Treatment Options for Male Infertility
Infertility not affects just women, but in fact it affects both men and women. In many of the cases, it has been seen that male infertility plays some role in the couple’s struggles to get pregnant. Many men suffer from low sperm count, poor motility, and other problems that affect their ability to conceive.
Causes of Male Infertility
When a couple is experiencing infertility, it is important for both the partners to undergo examinations and testing to pinpoint the most likely cause of the condition.
- Low Sperm Count: The main cause for male infertility is low sperm count. The principle is simple, no sperm means no fertilization. It is important for a man to produce enough sperm to fertilize woman’s egg, and if there is lack of sperm, nothing will happen. There should be at least 20 million sperm cells per millilitre or 40 million sperm cells per whole ejaculation sample in order to consider a man fertile. Anything less than this will be marked as sub-fertility or low sperm count.
- Quality of the sperm: Once it is certain that you have enough sperm to fertilize a woman, there is another part that you should pay attention to. It is not enough to have good sperm count, but in fact that sperm should also be healthy. In case your sperms have an abnormal head then it may not fertilize an egg. The head of the sperm contains all of the genetic makeup and it is important that it is of the right shape and size. A round, double head, pinhead and large head are some of the sperm abnormalities that can disable a sperm to fertilize an egg.
The mid-piece or the body of the sperm contains a “fuel” called as fructose. Fructose provides enough energy to the sperm so that it can make its journey from the cervix to the uterus. Fructose deficiency can also hinder sperm to get to the egg. Malformed Tail or if the sperm has no tail, two tails or coiled tail then it is not capable to get to the egg to fertilize it.
- Low Testosterone Levels: Another factor that is included in common causes of infertility in man is low testosterone levels or testosterone deficiency. It is also known as male hypogonadism which can be either congenital or can be developed later. It is a testicle disorder which is caused by pituitary gland or hypothalamus when the abnormal generation of hormones occurs.
- Infections: Besides these, various infections can also affect sperm motility which can cause infertility. Some of the well known infections are Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, which are sexual transmitted diseases (STDs). Sperm motility can also be affected by the swelling of the epididymis prostate or urethra.
For men infertility, the most common test is a semen analysis that helps in measuring the sperm count, motility, and other criteria. Once the cause of infertility is determined, then the right treatment is started. Let us begin to discuss treatment options that are available to them.
The treatment for male infertility depends on the specific problem. In some of the severe cases, no treatment is available. However, most of the times there are a mix of medications, surgical approaches and assisted reproductive techniques (ART) that are available to overcome many of the underlying fertility problems. The options are:
- Surgery: Minor outpatient surgery called as varicocelectomy is frequently used to repair dilated scrotal veins (varicoceles). Studies have shown that repairing these dilated veins results in improved sperm movement, concentration and structure. In some cases, obstruction causing infertility can also be surgically corrected. In case of a previous vasectomy or a surgery that uses an operating microscope has been found to be very successful in reversing the obstruction.
- Medication: Drugs play a key role in correcting retrograde ejaculation and immunologic infertility. Also, pituitary hormone deficiency may be corrected with drugs such as clomiphene or gonadotropin.
If these techniques fail, then the fertility specialist uses high-tech assisted reproductive techniques that promote conception without intercourse. Depending on the severity of the problem, the physician may suggest:
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI): In this method, the sperm is directly placed into the uterus via a catheter. IUI bypasses the cervical mucus that may prove to be hostile to the sperm and puts them close to the fallopian tubes where the fertilization occurs. IUI is often successful in overcoming low sperm count and movement problems, retrograde ejaculation, immunologic infertility and other causes of infertility.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF): This process refers to the fertilization taking place outside the body in a laboratory Petri dish. There, the egg of a female partner or donor is joined with the sperm. While IVF is employed mostly for women with obstructed fallopian tubes, it is occasionally used for men with oligospermia.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): This procedure is a variation of in vitro fertilization (IVF). It involves injecting a single sperm directly into the egg with a microscopic needle and then, once it is fertilized, it is transferred to the female partner’s uterus. Your doctor is likely to use ICSI if you have very poor semen quality or lack of adequate sperm in the semen that is caused by an obstruction or testicular failure. In some cases, the sperm may be surgically extracted from the testicles or epididymis for this procedure.
Besides these, modern scientific technologies like ART, ICSI, and IUI have made the treatment of male infertility easy. However, this treatment can be expensive. Today, inexpensive methods are also available without any compromise on the treatment and the methodology. Many advances have been made in the andrological research over the past few years.
Please remember that infertility can be cured and it does not mean that your masculinity is at stake. By being fit you can fight infertility. So it is important that both men and women get tested for fertility. It is understandable that it can be embarrassing, but discovering male fertility problems early can mean earlier treatment and a successful pregnancy.