Fertility Testing for Men: What's Involved and 4 Changes to Improve Sperm Count
Infertility does not discriminate and is not sexist. It can strike men and women in almost exactly the same ratio.
Male factor issues account for 40% of all infertility problems, exactly the same percentage for a woman having a fertility challenge.
The other 20% of the time? It's either a combination of problems or idiopathic (unexplained) infertility. Testing both partners is imperative to understanding the whole fertility picture, adding crucial information for the most effective fertility treatment.
Even great results can be improved, as changes in lifestyle can improve sperm counts.
Remember, Fertility Testing for Men is 50% of the Picture
If you are a woman reading this, maybe you've already been to your Obstetrician/Gynecologist. They tell you, "you're fine!" You're menstruating regularly, every 24-36 days. Maybe you've bought ovulation kits and and you're seeing that you are ovulating normally and within the right time frame. Or you're using an app that shows you when is the right time of the month to have sex. You're doing it all right.
You're missing half the picture.
Get the whole picture by having your partner tested.
If you're a guy reading this and you're trying to have a baby, get your sperm tested. Your DNA contribution is 50% of a baby; it's how they get your eyes or chin. Having the baby that you've been hoping for may depend on checking your fertility.
Fertility Testing for Men is Inexpensive and Simple
Fertility testing for men is also inexpensive and non invasive. You get a kit with everything you need inside, including detailed instructions ranging from how long to abstain from sex (only 2-5 days) to scheduling an appointment to drop off the semen sample so the lab who's examining it is prepared for you.
Most semen testing is covered by your insurance company, but do ask to make sure.
What's Involved in a Semen Analysis
For men, fertility pretty much hinges on having healthy sperm, so semen analysis is the most important test for the male half of a couple that is experiencing fertility issues. It is an inexpensive test that should be done early in any infertility evaluation.
Usually two or more semen samples, taken at separate intervals, are analyzed because it’s normal for sperm counts to fluctuate. The analysis requires abstinence for two to three days. The specimen is collected directly into a clean container.
The semen sample is examined in a laboratory for quantity and the presence of infections or blood. Then a detailed sperm analysis is done to determine the number of sperm present and any abnormalities in their size, shape and structure (morphology) and movement (motility).
Low sperm count is also called oligospermia. Theoretically, it only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg, but the odds of one sperm reaching the egg are very low. Consequently, a low sperm count reduces a man’s chances of fathering a child. An urologist can suggest medical or surgical treatments to increase those odds, and men are advised to avoid smoking, excessive drinking and illegal drugs, maintain a healthy weight, and stay out of sources of excessive heat (like tubs and saunas) that can temporarily reduce sperm count.
Both morphology and motility are factors in male infertility because they impair the sperm’s ability to reach and fertilize an egg. Some causes of abnormal morphology are infections, high fever, congenital testicular abnormalities, varicocele (enlarged veins in the scrotum) and illicit drug use. Again, an urologist can recommend treatments that can improve morphology, including treating an infection, varicocele repair and hormone replacement. Pregnancy may still be possible through intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization.
If sperm abnormalities are detected, the semen analysis can be repeated in four to six weeks to determine if they are permanent or temporary. If the sperm analysis is normal, your doctor will probably recommend a thorough testing of your female partner before considering additional male infertility tests.
If you're concerned about your fertility, start the conversation. Contact us for more information on semen analysis.
4 Lifestyle Changes to Make to Improve Sperm Quality
Sperm is produced every 64 days, give or take a day. Great news! At any point, it will be beneficial to do all the things listed below. Or to stop doing them.
- Excessive temperatures can damage sperm - there is a reason your testicles are on the outside of your body and it is to regulate temperature. This is a great time to avoid hot tubs and saunas. And yes, get your laptop off your lap!
- Alcohol - reducing or eliminating intake can make a significant difference in sperm quality.
- Any kind of smoking is harmful and counterproductive to a healthy conception, pregnancy and baby. Read this excellent article by RMA of Connecticut's Fertility Nutritionist, Carolyn Gundell, MS - Lifestyle Risks to Male Fertility: Smoking
- Excess stress can also play a part in reducing your fertility fitness. See what you can do about sleep hygiene and exercise, both excellent stress reducers.
2 More Articles to Read About Male Factor Infertility and Sperm
- Is some of the language confusing? We get it. Read this piece defining some of the language you may hear thrown around - It's Not Just About the Sperm
- This one's got a great visual on how the sperm interface with the egg- sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words! Male Factor Infertility- When It's All About the Sperm
Getting all the testing done will complete the fertility picture. Take a moment and schedule your semen analysis now. Then you can cross it off your to-do-list, knowing that you're closer to building your family.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.