For couples facing infertility, it is necessary for both partners to undergo equally thorough examinations. Male factors are found to be the sole cause of infertility in one third of couples, and are in combination with female factors in over half of all infertility cases. This usually comes down to problems related to semen production or delivery. Typically a thorough medical history is taken, and a semen analysis is done. The semen analysis test is the best way to help doctors determine whether or not a man’s sperm has the ability to fertilize an egg.
While a woman is born with all the eggs she will have in her lifetime, the male testes are continually producing sperm by a process known as spermatogenesis. It takes about three months for spermatozoa to reach maturity. Abnormalities at any point in this process can contribute to the male factor infertility.
The semen analysis test is simple. For a proper analysis, two samples should be taken at different times with at least 48 hours between ejaculations. The samples are measured, put on slides, and examined under a microscope. An individual’s test results can vary significantly, and a single abnormal result may be no cause for alarm, only an indication for further testing. A wide range of factors based on genetics, lifestyle, and presence of various medical conditions can affect the quality of sample as well. Five major factors that contribute to sperm quality are: sperm count, concentration, motility, speed, and morphology or shape.
Sperm count is the number of sperm present in a sample. Normal samples will contain around 40 million spermatozoa. Some causes for low sperm count may be exposure to excessive heat or radiation, drug use, consumption of alcohol, smoking, previous medical surgeries, or infection. Concentration refers to the amount of sperm present per millilitre of ejaculate. Results can range between 2 million/ml and 300 million/ml, but average around 40 million/ml. Conditions such as azoospermia, where sperm is produced but unable to mix with the ejaculate, contribute to low sperm count. Motility describes the sperm’s ability to move in fluid, or its “swimming ability”. This enables the sperm to make the journey through the uterus and fallopian tubes to penetrate the egg. In healthy samples at least half the sperm should be active. Speed is a measure of the forward progress a sperm makes. The morphology of a sperm should be similar to that of a tadpole. The genetic material is contained in the head while the tail provides propulsion.
Comparing these factors to set standards helps fertility specialists target possible causes of male infertility. A closer look at specific areas is necessary to develop the most effective infertility treatment plan.
About the Author:
Eric Daiter has been sponsored by The NJ Center for Reproductive Medicine, a leading provider of infertility treatment, to write information about male infertility. For more information, please visit www.infertilitytutorials.com