What is male infertility
Around one-third of all infertility cases are due to a problem with the male partner. Most cases of male infertility are related to the quality or quantity of sperm in ejaculated semen. According to the most recent references from the World Health Organization, 15 million sperm per millilitre, or less than 39 million sperm total per ejaculate, is considered below the normal range.
Poor sperm quality might also hinder fertilisation, such that sperm cells might be insufficiently motile to swim along the reproductive tract to meet an egg released at ovulation. Some men might produce no sperm cells in the ejaculate, a condition known as azoospermia.
Causes of male infertility
There may be other specific medical causes for male infertility including:
- testicular damage
- ejaculation disorders
- chromosomal or genetic causes
- undescended testes
- hormonal problems
- sperm antibodies
Lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption, stress and environmental factors can also play a part.
Treatment for male infertility
The technique of ICSI which was introduced in the early 1990s has revolutionised the treatment of men with poor sperm quality or low sperm counts. ICSI requires only one sperm cell which is injected directly into the egg therefore even in cases when only a few sperm cells can be found fertilisation with the egg is possible.
Fertilisation is generally around 90%, so many clinics use ICSI to guarantee fertilisation.
There are rare cases of male infertility in which normal sperm production or sperm ejaculation is prevented by an obstruction in the complicated tubal system of the testes. A surgical sperm retrieval process can help retrieve sperm from the testes to be used for ICSI treatment. This means that in almost all cases of male infertility treatment is possible.
Fertility test for men
Male fertility is tested initially by semen analysis, which tests sperm count, sperm motility and shape. A normal sperm count would be measured at around 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen. There are many reasons for a below normal sperm count, which investigation would hope to explain.