The Argument for Including Male Factor Fertility Testing During Initial Screenings
Posted on August 31st, 2022
When a heterosexual couple is facing a possible fertility issue, it’s common, even today, for the assumption to be that the issue exists due to female infertility factors. While this may be true, the causes for infertility between men and women are actually equal. In fact, male factor infertility alone is responsible for a third of infertility cases amongst heterosexual couples. Furthermore, about half of all infertility cases among heterosexual couples can be at least partially attributed to male infertility. This might come as a surprise if you’re new to the fertility community or are only in the first stages of connecting with a reproductive specialist to initiate fertility screenings. During this phase of the fertility journey, it’s often recommended that both parties within a heterosexual partnership get tested.
Why Male Fertility Testing Matters
In many cases when a couple first visits a fertility specialist, they don’t know or understand the exact reason why they are having trouble conceiving on their own. For a female patient, there are some telltale signs that she might be experiencing a fertility problem, specifically if she has irregular periods. Menstruation has a symbiotic relationship with ovulation and can often be analyzed as a sign of reproductive issues. Irregular periods can indicate a wide range of female reproductive conditions, including endometriosis, diminished ovarian reserve, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Male infertility, on the other hand, is far more subtle, with the exception of cases where erectile dysfunction is present. This is because men can have issues with their sperm without it affecting the production of semen. Seminal fluid is produced by the prostate and seminal vesicles. In an average male, the seminal fluid mixes with the sperm as it passes from the testicles to the penis. However, if a man is producing a low number of sperm, no sperm, sperm with poor motility, or abnormally shaped sperm, there is no way to know without him undergoing a semen analysis.
This can be very frustrating for couples who do not opt to include male fertility testing as part of their screening process.
Male Infertility, an Example
To illustrate the importance of testing for male fertility, let’s present an example.
A heterosexual couple has been trying to conceive for over a year. Both partners are 35 with no underlying health conditions and no reason to suspect that either of them has a fertility concern. The female partner has had a regular period since she was a teenager. Because it has been over a year of trying without any success, they know that it’s time to schedule a consultation with a fertility specialist.
The couple visits a fertility specialist who begins screening the female partner and eventually arrives at a treatment plan. This treatment plan could be intrauterine insemination (IUI) or something more advanced like in vitro fertilization (IVF). Both of these procedures will take the patients’ time, energy, and financial commitment. Now, what if the treatment fails? What if it fails a second or third time?
At this point, the fertility specialist will likely recommend a fertility evaluation for the male partner, if not earlier in the couple’s journey. After running a semen analysis, which is a simple procedure, the couple discovers that the male partner has severe male factor infertility. Now that they know this, their fertility specialist can alter their fertility treatment plan to increase the likelihood of success. One of the advanced fertility treatments they might recommend is a procedure known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which involves injecting a single healthy sperm into an egg.
With the help of IVF and ICSI, the couple is finally able to have a child. Although they’re elated with the overall outcome, they realize now that hindsight is 20/20. If the male partner had undergone fertility testing at the same time as the female partner, they would have discovered his fertility issue early on and potentially saved a lot of time, energy, and money.
Start Your Fertility Journey the Right Way
When first starting your fertility journey, start on the right foot by making sure that both partners are undergoing fertility evaluations early on. By getting a complete picture of all possible factors, you stand a better chance of having a successful fertility care experience sooner rather than later. For advanced fertility care in Austin, Dallas, Houston, McAllen, and San Antonio, Texas, contact Aspire Fertility today.