Sperm is necessary for conception. When a man ejaculates the sperm travels up the cervix, through the uterus and into the fallopian tubes. Once it reaches the fallopian tubes, it hopefully meets up with an egg and fertilization occurs. Problems with the sperm can result in infertility.
Common problems include low sperm number, low semen volume, low sperm motility and low sperm morphology (morphology is what the sperm look like under the microscope).
The first step in determining if there is a male factor is to perform a semen analysis. If the semen analysis is abnormal then more tests may be indicated to determine the underlying cause of the abnormality. Once we know what the issue is we can formulate an appropriate treatment plan. Depending on how significant the abnormality is, a consult with an urologist (a doctor that specializes in male issues) may be warranted.
Depending and the cause, male factor infertility can be treated with:
- Artificial inseminations or intrauterine inseminations (IUI)
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Medications can be used to improve the sperm count.
- Surgery to correct blockages or obtain sperm directly from the testicle
A semen analysis is a fairly simple test that gives us a great deal of information. For most couples undergoing fertility testing a semen analysis is the only male focused exam.
Before having a semen analysis, we ask that you refrain from ejaculation for at least 2 days, but for no more than 7 days. Once the semen sample is produced, it is taken to our lab and the sperm is looked at under the microscope to determine a number of factors. We ascertain the volume of semen, the sperm count (number of sperm), the motility (percent of sperm that are moving) and the morphology (percent of sperm that look normal).
If any of the factors are abnormal they may be associated with infertility. However, the semen analysis must be viewed as a whole. For instance, if the number of sperm is very high, but the motility is moderately decreased this may or may not be an issue. On the other hand, if the number of sperm is low and the motility is moderately decreased there is more likely to be an impact on fertility.
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