Infertility is a common issue and affects a growing number of couples. In roughly 40% of cases, the cause of the infertility lies wholly or in part with the male partner. This makes it essential that the man in an infertile couple undergoes testing. Despite this imperative, men sometimes fail to be tested due to the embarrassing and personal nature of the tests.
Men are fortunate compared to women in the sense that although male infertility tests are personal, they are not actually painful, as can be the case with female testing. Nor are they quite as expensive as female tests.
Infertility investigations are carried out by a urologist. The process begins with a basic medical history being taken, including episodes of surgery, drugs prescribed, and any illnesses. The questions also cover lifestyle issues such as smoking, drug use, and levels of physical activity.
A physical exam follows, checking your heart, lungs and testicles.
The final part is often the most embarrassing. It opens with a discussion of your sexual history and current sex life. Be prepared for questions about how often, positions and even duration. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, remember that you are talking to a medical professional; their only interest is whether or not your answers fall within normal parameters.
A semen test is also conducted. Ejaculation into a cup is not high on most people’s ‘must do’ list, but it is an important part of the exam.
The semen sample will be evaluated for sperm count, viability, movement and other variables. In roughly 15% of infertile men it will come back normal, only for a different fertility issue to be found instead. If this is the case, the semen test will tell your doctors in which direction the investigation needs to head. This might include a more exhaustive physical exam, looking at the penis and testicles in greater depth. Blood work often follows too, to check your hormone levels.
Between these four routes of investigation, the cause of infertility is usually found. And in most cases it is something that can be corrected via medication, surgery or lifestyle change.
There are a small percentage of men whose infertility cannot be remedied through medical means. However, they can normally still become a parent via IVF or another medical procedure. In rare cases where absolutely no sperm are present, adoption is always an option.
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