Problems with sperm, including a low sperm count and sperm quality, are quite common. They’re a factor in around 1 in 3 couples who have trouble trying to get pregnant. In this article, we cover the causes of male factor infertility and some of the treatment options.
What is male factor infertility?
Male factor infertility refers to not being able to conceive with a fertile, female partner after 1 year of unprotected intercourse. It can occur if there is no or low sperm production, abnormal sperm function or a blockage that prevents sperm from being ejaculated.
What causes male factor infertility?
Problems with sperm quality could be associated with hormonal imbalances, a genetic condition, testicular damage or obstruction, or certain medications. Illnesses, injuries, chronic health problems and lifestyle factors can also impact male fertility.
How do you test for male factor infertility?
If you and your partner are having trouble getting pregnant, one of the first tests your doctor will likely ask for is a semen analysis. A semen analysis is a test performed to evaluate semen and sperm. The semen is collected by masturbation into a sterile pot, usually within a fertility clinic setting. The test will analyse the volume, how many sperm there are (concentration), how the sperm are moving (motility) and how they are shaped (morphology).
Can you improve sperm quality?
Research has shown that an unhealthy lifestyle can have a negative impact on semen parameters. Changes to your lifestyle may help improve your sperm health and optimise your chances of conceiving. Sperm production is continuous and it takes on average 90 days to produce new sperm. By making changes to your lifestyle now, you might see an improvement in your sperm quality in about 3 months’ time! Read our article Lifestyle changes for optimal semen quality for more information.
Male factor infertility and trying to conceive
Having male factor infertility can make it more difficult to conceive, however, pregnancies still occur. The Béa Treatment Kit could be a good treatment option for mild male factor infertility. The Béa Applicator places our custom cervical cap against the cervix, holding semen in place for up to one hour. The cervical cap can be beneficial in cases of low sperm count, low motility and low morphology, as the semen is concentrated near the cervix! It increases the exposure to the cervical mucus, minimises the contact of semen in the vagina (where the pH can reduce sperm quality) and reduces semen backflow.
Sometimes, a delay in conception isn’t due to problems with sperm quality, but instead, problems related to maintaining an erection or ejaculating. This can make it difficult to release sperm. Ejaculation problems could be caused by certain medication, prostate problems, thyroid problems and sometimes stress. If you have persistent problems with ejaculation, you can visit your GP who may offer some investigations and possible referral to a specialist.
Visiting your doctor about male factor infertility
Your GP may initially suggest trying to conceive with intercourse for a little longer. Many couples conceive within the second year of trying. Your GP can help you optimise your health if there are any lifestyle changes you could be making or refer you for further investigations or to a specialist. Some treatment options they might recommend include hormonal therapies, surgery for testicular obstruction, intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and sometimes IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).