When it comes to infertility problems in couples, the reasons might be diverse and unlike the popular belief, male factor infertility comes up as common a cause as female factor infertility. Male factor infertility can plague any man, who otherwise looks and feels healthy. Even someone who already has been a father before can combat it at a later stage. Fertility clinics focus on testing both males and females for addressing infertility at the earliest, so that no time is wasted for starting with the right treatment plan based on the accurate diagnosis.
Primarily, semen analysis is regarded as the basic test for identifying male factor infertility. As the name suggests, the test involves testing of the sperm to check out its ability to fertilize an egg successfully. The analysis includes the study of an array of parameters such as the sperm count, motility, volume, pH level, morphology (appearance), consistency and maturity.
When sperm analysis turns out normal results, the specialist looks for other reasons of infertility. On the other hand, when this test shows some abnormality, further testing has to be done to establish the exact cause of male infertility and proceed with the right treatment.
Male Fertility Testing: Beyond Semen Analysis
After the basic semen analysis turns up with something amiss, the specialist has to adopt a more aggressive approach for diagnosing the problem. For this purpose, a number of advanced tests have been devised and these will now be discussed in detail.
Before approaching towards advanced testing, a simple physical examination by an expert urologist is done to identify a condition known as varicoceles. It refers to a vein abnormality (enlargement) in the scrotum, which is one of the most common causes of male factor infertility. Fortunately, it can be easily treated with a simple surgery. Another parameter that is checked out during a physical exam is the testicular size.
Another thing that the specialist might want to rule out as a cause of male infertility is hormonal imbalance. Sperm production is influenced by a number of hormones such as testosterone, the male hormone as well as FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone), prolactin and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), all of which are both male and female hormones. Any abnormality in these hormone levels can lead to male infertility, though this can be rare phenomena.
Genetic testing refers to a blood test which has a closer look at the DNA, with the purpose of detecting a chromosomal defect. It is recommended for men whose sperm count is extremely low or sperm is non-existent in the semen. Men with some congenital problems such as small testicular size and absence of vas deferens (in simple language, the pipeline for sperms), are considered as candidates of genetic testing. Similarly, couples combating multiple miscarriages can be made to take genetic tests.
Testing for Antibodies and Sexually Transmitted Diseases
In some cases, certain antibodies are produced in the body and these attack the sperms produced by the man, hindering their ability to fertilize the egg. Blood tests are used to identify these anti-sperm antibodies and treat the issue effectively. Other tests such as those for sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are also used to study male factor infertility in a comprehensive manner.
Testicular biopsy is an advanced test which involved removal of a small piece of tissue from the testicles. The test determines whether the sperm is being produced normally and in case, it turns out normal, it indicates some kind of obstruction.
An ultrasound test can help the specialist locate a blockage or damage in the male reproductive system, as in the seminal vesicles, scrotum, prostate, ejaculatory ducts and other support structures of the tract.
Vasography refers to an x-ray, which is done to identify an obstruction in vas deferens or a leakage of sperm from it.
Post-ejaculation urinalysis is a specialized urine test performed to check out the condition called retrograde ejaculation. It is characterized by the sperm travelling backward into the urinary bladder instead of being ejaculated through the penis. A previous surgery could be the possible cause of retrograde ejaculation.
Advanced Sperm Function Tests
Certain advanced sperm function tests are performed to address more complicated issues related to the sperm quality. These tests relate to the ability of the sperm to swim through the cervical mucus and penetrate the egg, its potential of survival after ejaculation and whether it can successfully attach to the egg to form an embryo. These tests are suggested only in very rare cases.
All these tests have become a part of the diagnostic and treatment plan for couples these days, and they are as important as female fertility testing. Timely and accurate diagnosis ensures that the treatment is carried out in a speedy and effective manner.
Gaudium IVF is a reputed IVF centre which provides all kinds of advanced diagnostic tests for male and female infertility. Contact here for a free second opinion from Dr Manika Khanna, the renowned fertility specialist at Gaudium IVF.