Despite common perceptions, men play a significant role when it comes to infertility. According to studies, men contribute to 50% of infertility problems.
So how can couples find out who’s the cause of their fertility problems? And if it’s the guy, what are the options for pregnancy?
Let’s take a look.
WHAT IS MALE FACTOR INFERTILITY?
Men are often overlooked when a couple has trouble getting pregnant. While the woman’s ovaries get most of the attention, a guy’s sperm are often the culprit.
To impregnate a woman, a man must have an adequate number of healthy and functional sperm. While sperm morphology (the shape of sperm) and motility (sperm’s ability to move) are important factors, sperm count is the most common issue of male factor infertility.
Fewer sperm means there’s a lesser chance of fertilizing a woman’s egg. A low sperm count, known as oligospermia, is considered less than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Sure, 15 million sounds like a lot. But a normal ejaculation should contain 40 million to 300 million sperm.
So, how do you find out your sperm count? Well, you need semen analysis, which usually means taking a trip to a fertility clinic to provide a sample. While some guys are OK with this, others find it uncomfortable (which may be why 80% of men in infertile couples don’t get a fertility evaluation).
If you’re looking for a simpler, more private—and less expensive—option, you can use SpermCheck, an at-home male fertility test that measures your sperm count. The test kit is under $50. If the test shows you’re infertile, you can seek a more comprehensive evaluation.
PREGNANCY OPTIONS FOR MALE INFERTILITY
While there are many causes of fertility problems in men, not all of them are treatable or easily detectable.
When oligospermia isn’t easy to treat, couples can consider an intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which is a specialized type of in vitro fertilization (IVF).
In ICSI, a single, high-quality sperm collected from the man is injected into an egg collected from the woman. The resulting embryo is then implanted in the woman’s uterus.
ICSI differs from traditional IVF in that instead of letting the sperm fertilize the eggs on their own in a lab dish, ICSI injects sperm directly into the eggs, which typically has a higher fertilization rate. It’s recommended for male fertility problems in couples, particularly for guys who have a low sperm count.
ICSI has a fertilization rate of 70-85%, but that doesn’t guarantee a successful pregnancy after the resulting embryo is implanted in the uterus. Couples should also consider the cost of ICSI. The procedure usually is $1,500 alone, not including the average $12,400 for an IVF cycle.
Infertility is a complex issue that involves both genders and a number of factors. Both men and women should have their fertility checked to determine their statuses. If male factor infertility is the issue, then ICSI is a pregnancy option couples should consider.