Being diagnosed with male infertility can be one of the hardest things to deal with. For some men, infertility can be devastating particularly if fathering their own child is something that is very important.
If you’ve been diagnosed with male infertility, your doctor will try to restore or improve your fertility by either using treatments that may be helpful or by correcting the problem if one has been determined.
Most of the time there is nothing that can be done to prevent a man from being infertile. For these men, infertility treatments may be the only way that they can have their own child.
Low Sperm Count and Infertility
One of the most common causes of male infertility is a low sperm count or sperm that are abnormal. Abnormal sperm includes sperm that is of low quality or that has mobility problems.
The following are some of the causes of a low sperm count:
- Undescended testicles.
- Varicoceles: A swollen or enlarged vein or grouping of veins right above the testicle.
- Infections in the prostate or testicle.
- Chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
- Hormonal imbalances.
- Certain medications such as anti-seizure drugs.
- Genetic abnormalities.
Some of the causes above can be reversed and corrected such as a varicocele.
Varicocele Ligation for Treating Male Infertility
Found in the scrotum, varicoceles are often treated to correct infertility. If the varicoceles are of a significant size then undergoing a varicocele ligation is one way to improve the quality of the sperm.
In most cases after undergoing surgery, pregnancy rates in about 6 to 9 months will rise up to 40 percent.
It’s important to note that if the initial sperm mobility and sperm count were low and inadequate that it’s not likely that varicocele ligation will help. For those couples where this is the case, they may be unable to conceive with ART (artificial reproductive technology).
Infertility Treatment for Retrograde Ejaculation
Retrograde ejaculation is a condition where the sperm moves into the bladder rather than being ejaculated out through the penis during an orgasm.
The disorder is often found in men who have a spinal cord injury, diabetic neuropathy or have had previous surgery to the neck of the bladder. Medications are usually prescribed to treat retrograde ejaculation.
Oral bicarbonate is used to try to alkalinize the urine in the bladder so that sperm that is ejaculated into the bladder can be successfully retrieved and used for artificial insemination.
Male Infertility Caused by Hormone Imbalances
Men whose infertility is caused by hormonal imbalances may be treated with medications such as Clomiphene Citrate.
Men who have mild to moderate abnormalities with their sperm have often been prescribed this drug try and improve semen quality.
The drug works by stimulating the pituitary gland to produce hormones that activate sperm production. A sperm analysis will be done prior to starting medication.
Sperm will then be re-analyzed about 3 to 6 months later to see if hormone therapy is effective. If not effective the drug will be discontinued. Clomiphene Citrate is usually used to treat female infertility and trigger ovulation.
Sperm Retrieval Treatments for Male Infertility
For many men who have abnormalities with their sperm or who are not able to produce enough sperm to make natural conception possible, sperm retrieval may be their only option to father a child.
There are three different types of sperm retrieval:
- MESA (Microscopic Epididymal Sperm Aspiration): Sperm is retrieved from the epididymis which is a tube found at the back of the testes.
- PESA (Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration): In this procedure, a needle is used to penetrate into the scrotum and withdraw a tiny amount of sperm.
- TESE (Testicular Sperm Extraction): Samples of the testes are removed and then processed for extraction of sperm.
Using one of these techniques, sperm can be retrieved from most men even those who have only a handful of sperm. Retrieval is even possible for those men who have had a vasectomy or a failed vasectomy reversal.
Most sperm retrieval procedures are done on an outpatient basis and are only minimally invasive. Once sperm has been retrieved it can be used in other infertility treatments such as IVF (in vitro fertilization) and ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection)
ICSI Treatment for Male Infertility
ICSI is a surgical procedure where the embryologist will select the highest quality sperm that has been retrieved from the male. The sperm is then directly injected into the egg.
This procedure ensures that the egg is only fertilized by one sperm. ICSI has transformed fertility treatment and makes it possible for the majority of men to be the genetic father to their children.
Preventing Male Infertility
Male infertility sometimes requires invasive types of treatment, however, there are some cases where men can preserve their fertility by following a few conventional methods:
- Using antibiotics to treat any infections.
- Using fertility medications to increase sperm production.
- Treating hormone imbalances.
- Wearing loose fitting boxer shorts rather than tight-fitting jockey shorts.
- Avoiding using saunas or hot tubs.
- Avoiding taking long, hot showers.
Anything that increases the number of healthy sperm a man has will significantly improve his chances of protecting his fertility and conceiving a child naturally.