ale Fertility Tests
When having problems getting pregnant, it is important that fertility tests assess male fertility in addition to female fertility. Up to 40% of fertility problems are related to the male partner, however early fertility tests heavily concentrate on women and their reproductive health. By assessing male fertility, the causes of a couple’s difficulties in getting pregnant can be identified more easily and more quickly, enabling them to get pregnant sooner, in turn reducing the tension and stress that often accompanies the process of fertility testing.
Causes of Male Infertility
Physical problems that can affect male fertility include the following conditions:
- undescended testes
- tubal blockage
- ejaculation problems
- erectile problems
- condition of the scrotum
In addition, testicular problems can lead to poor sperm quality.
Types of Tests
Before conducting any laboratory tests, your doctor will perform a physical examination.
An initial male fertility test provides a basic sperm (or semen) analysis that involves producing a sperm sample by masturbating directly into a sterile container. This test is performed after having abstained from sex for a period of two to three days, but no more than seven days. Depending on how far you live from the fertility clinic, it may be possible to produce the sperm sample at home, so long as it reaches the laboratory within an hour.
Secondary male fertility tests will assess:
- the ability of sperm to penetrate and fertilize an egg
- whether sperm is able to penetrate the cervical mucus in order to reach the egg
- if the male body sees its own sperm as foreign bodies, in which case the body produces antibodies (this is assessed using an anti-sperm antibody test)
- hormone levels (this is assessed using blood tests)
If hormonal imbalances are found, your doctor may prescribe fertility drugs to correct the problem. If there are physical problems affecting the creation or release of sperm, surgery may be appropriate.
Factors Affecting Tests Results
Factors that can affect the results of a sperm test include:
- the wearing of tight clothing (including underwear)
- too many hot baths
- excessive alcohol consumption
- recent infections or illnesses, including colds and the flu
- previous infections, illnesses or treatments, including mumps, chlamydia and radiotherapy, which may have caused permanent damage
- stress, which can often be caused by the fertility testing process itself
- work hazards, including exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, solvents and x-rays
- hormonal imbalances