Did you know that infertility is not just a female problem? Men are often surprised to learn they are culpable when it comes to having a baby. Factors which can cause male infertility can be evaluated by a comprehensive semen analysis. Such a test evaluates sperm, indicating quantity (concentration), motility (movement), and morphology (shape), all of which can affect a woman's ability to become pregnant. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), “In approximately 40 percent of infertile couples, the male partner is either the sole cause or a contributing cause of infertility.” As is the case for women, men, too, have difficulty coping with the fact they are incapable of producing offspring. Today many infertile men resort to infertility specialists who can offer assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures using the intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) technique to ease the way to fertility.
Healthy Sperm (Spermatozoa):
This picture illustrates a healthy, mature sperm with a normal shaped head, neck and tail. Healthy and mature sperm cannot be seen by the human eye; a very specific microscope is necessary to make the tiny sperm visible, as it is a mere 0.05 millimetres. The genetic material (DNA), or chromosomes, are contained in the head of the sperm, or the nucleus. The neck, which contains the mitochondria transfers energy to the sperm, and the tail, and with its characteristic forward motion, pushes the sperm onward on its lengthy, difficult journey to meet the egg. Sperm is a vital component in reproduction. Sperm production is a complex and lengthy process that occurs in the testes. Hormones also play a role in this production. Only a mature sperm can fertilize a woman’s egg. Although many millions of sperm make the fertility journey, usually only one sperm miraculously is successful in its quest.
Testing for male infertility:
Male infertility can only be diagnosed through a semen analysis test, since sperm cannot be seen by the naked eye. A semen analysis can indicate the volume of the semen sample, the sperm concentration, motility, morphology, semen pH, the presence of sperm antibodies, and any signs of infection. Another test used to diagnose certain infertility issues with sperm is a testicular biopsy, for which a sample tissue is taken from the testes for further investigation. One should consult an infertility specialist if repeated semen analysis testing consistently indicates abnormalities.
Causes of male infertility:
Sperm production problems, sperm transport blockages, sperm antibodies, hormonal problems, as well as erection and ejaculation issues can all cause male infertility. Examples of abnormal sperm production are absence of germ cells, maturation of germ cell arrest, and hypospermatogenesis. It important to note that simple matters such as increased temperature of a man's testicles can affect sperm production, which is why it is recommended to wear pants and underwear that are loose fitting. A man's testicles were meant to hang away from his body. Tight-fitting clothing will cocoon the testicles against the warmth of the body and sometimes affect sperm production. Sometimes a man is born with issues that affect his sperm, while other times issues are caused by environmental factors or problems that occur as he ages such a disease, injuries, or stress.
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Dr. Mostafa Abuzeid and Embryology staff member
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Senior Embryologist looking for sperm under the microscope.