Quick look at male fertility testing
Issues related to male fertility, usually involving sperm quality or quantity, contribute to up to 40 percent of all cases of infertility.
Male fertility testing consists of a set of procedures that seeks to identify problems with the male partner that may be contributing to a couple’s infertility.
Testing may include semen analysis, physical exam, assessment of medical history, urinalysis and hormone testing.
What is male fertility testing?
Fertility testing for men seeks to determine if a problem with the male partner is causing or contributing to a couple’s infertility. When a couple is unable to achieve pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse (at least once or twice per week), they are diagnosed with infertility. During the initial evaluation of an infertile couple, a fertility doctor will do a thorough evaluation of both partners to determine the underlying cause or causes of infertility.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, about 20 percent of infertility cases are solely due to male infertility factors, and an additional 30-40 percent of cases involve some aspect of male infertility. Issues with sperm are the usual cause.
Another factor identified in male infertility testing is hormonal disorders, particularly a lack of testosterone, an important hormone in the production of sperm. Erectile dysfunction, retrograde ejaculation and certain structural issues of the male reproductive system are also causes of male infertility.
Semen analysis is by far the most common method of testing for male infertility, and usually the first step in the male fertility testing process. This procedure involves laboratory analysis of a man’s sperm to look at factors relating to quality, quantity and motility (active movement). If abnormalities are detected, further evaluation may be needed.
Related information: Fertility Testing for Women
Types of male fertility testing
The semen analysis is the most important test in the male infertility workup. First, a sample of the patient’s semen is collected, most often through masturbation, and sent to a laboratory for testing. Then the lab analyst looks at several important metrics that directly impact male fertility. These include:
- Total volume – how much semen was produced upon ejaculation
- Concentration of sperm in semen
- Shape of sperm (morphology)
- Active movement of sperm (motility).
If any of these criteria fall outside of the normal range, it may indicate the presence of male infertility. Underlying causes include varicocele (an enlarged vein in the scrotum), hormonal disorders or deficiencies, and lifestyle factors such as poor diet and stress. Abnormal semen analysis results may also prompt further testing to determine problems with the sperm’s function.
Related information: Causes of Infertility
In a physical exam the doctor evaluates overall wellness and potentially identifies issues with the reproductive anatomy. The doctor will examine the testicles and the surrounding area to identify issues such as swelling and tenderness, or abnormalities such as varicoceles and cysts.
Assessment of medical history
Men undergoing fertility testing will be asked about anything in their medical history that could lead to fertility problems. This may include:
- Past trauma or injury to the testicles
- Previous mumps infection
- Previous urinary tract infection
- Previous cancer treatment
- Sexual history
- History of erectile dysfunction
- Smoking and alcohol use, past and present
- Environmental exposure to toxins, past and present.
A simple blood test may be performed to examine hormone levels that are vital to the production of healthy sperm, particularly if a semen analysis reveals low or abnormal sperm. These hormones include testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and prolactin.
Post-ejaculatory urine test (urinalysis)
A urine test called a urinalysis may be ordered to detect the presence of semen in the urine, which may be a sign of retrograde ejaculation. Retrograde ejaculation is a condition in which semen that is supposed to release during ejaculation ends up in the bladder instead. Urinalysis can also detect the presence of white blood cells, which may indicate infection that can affect sperm and thus cause male infertility.
Next Steps: Diagnosing and treating male infertility at Positive Steps Fertility
We are well equipped to diagnose male infertility and very experienced at treating it, using the method that makes the most sense for each patient based on his goals and needs. If you are a man, or his partner, and have any doubt about male infertility, contact us to get started with a consultation and possible male infertility testing.
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