Fertility Testing for Men
Male infertility may not be heard as often as female fertility, but it is responsible for difficulties in conceiving in a fifth of the couples seeking fertility treatment. It may play some role along with other causes in another third of the couples.
Despite such a common occurrence, it is rare to hear of men actively pursuing their fertility. But, nowadays we live in an age of information and it appears that men are now relatively more open to talk about their fertility. They are also open to testing especially if it can be done in the comfort of their home. Women have had many products available to understand some aspects of their fertility, but, men have not been so fortunate. But now, we are seeing more direct to consumer products on the shelves that can test some aspects of male fertility.
Addressing About Male Fertility
When trying to conceive, it is vitally important that both men and women think about their fertility. Maintaining optimal male fertility will involve addressing factors in your proximal personal and work environment that may affect fertility. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, heavy or binge alcohol consumption, use of recreational drugs, caffeine consumption, unhealthy diet, exposure to hot temperatures, obesity, stress and exposure to chemicals in your environment may affect your fertility.
Many of these lifestyle or environmental factors may increase the oxidative stress levels in the testes and affect male fertility. Whilst these factors are important to address not only from fertility point of view but also to take care of your long term health.
Regular exercise is beneficial not only for general health, but also for your fertility. Vigorous exercise especially when wearing tight clothing for prolonged periods of time may affect sperm health. Unlike women, men are fortunate that the age does not affect their fertility to same extent as it does for women. Though age will plays some role in sperm function especially for men at later ages.
Medical Conditions Impacting Male Fertility
If you suffer from medical illnesses or take prescription medicine, then it may be worthwhile to speak to your Doctor or fertility specialist to check your fertility. This can be done either before you have started or you have been trying unsuccessfully for sometime. In rare cases especially with serious illnesses or where the treatment has potential to affect fertility, then you may consider freezing sperms as a back-up or for fertility preservation.
Currently, this is offered to all men before proceeding with cancer treatments especially if they have not completed family at the time of going through treatment. If you have other members of family who have faced difficulties with conceiving, then again you may want to discuss with your Doctor or Fertility specialist.
Couples Fertility MOTs
It is common for couples to get themselves checked out even before they have started trying to conceive. The sperm health can be checked by doing a basic semen analysis. A semen analysis can be arranged by contacting a fertility clinic in your area. Most NHS fertility clinics will do semen analysis only for those couples who have been unsuccessfully trying for at least a year.
A semen analysis will tell us about the sperm count and concentration, sperm motility (movement), morphology (shape) and whether there are any antibodies that may attach to the sperms and affect sperm function. Some fertility clinics will do more checks such as vitality scores and presence of any inflammatory cells in the semen.
It is usually believed that sperm concentration of more than 55 million per ml is reassuring and signifies a higher chance of achieving natural conception. But, it does not guarantee a normal male fertility. It is not uncommon to have results outside the normal range. Almost 10-20% of the semen analyses results would be outside the normal range.
Similarly, an abnormal results does not always mean that you and your partner can conceive only through fertility treatments like IVF (in vitro fertilisation) or ICSI (intra cytoplasmic sperm injection). Most fertility specialists will arrange a repeat semen analysis generally 2 -3 months later before starting any fertility treatments such as IVF or IVF/ICSI or ICSI or Intracytoplasmic morphologically selected sperm insemination (IMSI).
If you have persistently low sperm concentration or motility or morphology, then you should seek help of a fertility specialist.
Over the Counter Semen Analysis
There are few over the counter home testing kits available for semen analysis. Some of these are SpermCheck™ or Trak™. These DIY tests will report on the sperm count or concentration only. These tests do not tell us about other parameters such as motility or morphology or agglutination or inflammatory cells that may also affect male fertility.
Book a Male Fertility MOT
It is time that men start looking after their fertility as women do. You may first think of addressing any potential causes such a lifestyle factors that may affect your fertility. If you would like to be more informed about your choices, then you can see a fertility specialist for a semen analysis or Male Fertility MOT.