Male Factor Infertility

Jennifer "Jay" Palumbo

IVF mom of two and infertility advocate

Hagai Levine is a public health researcher and the former chief epidemiologist for the Israel Defense Forces. He, with Shanna Swan, a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, came out with research in 2017 that made headlines.

Their study showed that sperm levels appear to be declining across the world, including the U.S. It also established that sperm concentration had fallen by 52 percent among men in Western countries between 1973 and 2011.

According to ASRM, infertility affects both women and men equally. Up until recent years, however, male factor infertility wasn’t given as much attention. Starting with this study, more and more, male infertility is being highlighted often by fertility companies that offer home sperm testing kits, articles, and resources.

How Do You Know If You Have An Issue?

If you’re a male, and your female partner is under the age of 35 and you’ve been trying to conceive regularly for one year, you should schedule a consultation to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). If your female partner is over 35, you should see an RE after six months of trying to conceive.

Of course, if you already know of a reason that your sperm may be compromised, you may want to see a urologist (a doctor whose primary focus is men’s reproductive health) first. Such factors would be something along the lines of if you’ve ever had chemotherapy treatments for cancer, or there are known genetic abnormalities in your family history. It would also include if you have hormone issues or if you’ve ever had any infection in your testicles, prostate. In addition, specific medications can impact your fertility.

What Does The Doctor Look For?

If you don’t know of any issue that would have affected your sperm, the RE will do a fertility check-up on both you and your partner. Getting a fertility workup would include a medical history and a physical exam as well as a semen analysis.

The analysis looks at three primary factors:

  • Sperm Count
  • Morphology (the shape of the sperm)
  • Motility (how well it swims)

Depending on your history, goals, and results, your RE may perform additional tests such as a physical examination, hormone testing (blood work), a testicular biopsy, or genetic testing. These tests are to properly diagnose the problem so that they can come up with a treatment plan tailored to your and your partner’s family building goals.

The good news is technology, depending on your diagnosis, provides several treatment options. They can repair or block off abnormal veins, prescribe medications to address hormonal imbalances, and perform surgery to correct any obstruction. Plus, you have Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) available to you.

Such options include intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Also, if necessary and only if you and your partner are comfortable with it, they may recommend considering the use of donor sperm.

If you have any concerns or have been trying to conceive, GoStork has various resources you can explore along the way.