The desire to father a child is one shared by many men. But when this is proving difficult after months of trying, it can become a source of worry. Infertility affects about 5-8% of couples in Nigeria.
It is perceived as a female reproductive problem whereas men are responsible for 50% of infertility cases. This means that half the time, men are the cause. As your partner is seeking a solution, you should do the same.
Before you start seeking medical care, you want to know what tests and questions to expect and how to prepare for them. Here are seven frequently asked questions regarding male infertility.
1. When should I take a fertility test?
If you have problems with sexual function, you may need to visit your doctor for sperm check. Fertility check is ideally considered when a couple has been trying to get pregnant after a year of unprotected and regular intercourse.
A man can also decide to have a fertility check early on if he has a history of erectile dysfunction, mumps infection, urinary tract surgery, testicular damage, and untreated or poorly treated STI.
2. Which male fertility test is the best?
There is no single fertility test that can be said to be the best. Different fertility tests recommended by physicians provide information that will help them reach a conclusive result. In some men, the diagnosis and its causes can be detected after one test. While for some others, more than one test is required.
Some of the most prescribed fertility checks are semen analysis, hormone testing, and radiological imaging.
It is also known as seminal fluid analysis or seminogram. Semen is a fluid during ejaculation which contains sperm, proteins, and sugar that ensure the viability of the test. It is a non-invasive test that measures and analyses sperm quantity and quality.
A sperm sample is analyzed for four important factors. And that is why it is inaccurate to call the test a sperm count. It is more than just that, the major factors determined from a semen analysis are;
- Volume: The normal range is 1.5-7.6mL
- Sperm count: The normal amount of sperm is 15 million per mL.
- Sperm motility: This is the ability of a sperm to propel itself forward and fast enough towards the egg for fertilization. A fertile man requires at least 60% progressive sperm.
- Shape of sperm: The morphology of a sperm determines the motility and ability to fertilize. In the presence of many abnormal sperm cells, conception may be difficult. Sperm shape is observed with the aid of a microscope.
Your doctor may carry out multiple checks to get a clearer picture of sperm health. This is because sperm count varies from time to time, same as other constituents of semen.
By testing two to three times, the average value of each parameter gives a better result. The interval between successive tests should be at least seven days over a period of three months.
Hormones control the production of sperm. If their levels are low, sex drive and semen volume will be affected. A simple hormonal test will show the level of FSH, LH, and testosterone. Male blood hormone tests are very important in uncovering the cause of infertility.
Sometimes, the doctor may want to rule out the presence of structural abnormalities obstructing the outflow of semen. Imaging checks for cysts, infections, tumours, torsion, and accumulated fluid.
3. How is semen analysis conducted?
As the test implies, the test sample is semen. You will be required to provide your doctor with a semen sample for the analysis. There are three main ways to collect a semen sample and they are by masturbation, sex with a condom, and withdrawal method before ejaculation.
The preferred method is masturbation because compared to others, there is no sperm volume loss. You can choose to do this in your house. However, in this case, you have to deliver the sample to the hospital in an hour, under optimal conditions to avoid compromising the results.
If you live more than an hour away from your physician, request for a collection kit and private room to use it.
4. What are the precautions to observe before semen analysis?
- Do not ejaculate for two to four days before your visit.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and drugs such as cocaine two to four days before the tests
- Avoid taking herbal medications.
- Stop taking any hormone medications prescribed by your healthcare provider.
- Go with all your records. In some cases, your doctor will request full fertility reports of your partner and family history of infertility.
- The sample is best collected before 10 AM.
5. Can I use a home fertility test kit?
Yes, you can. All you have to do is buy a kit and ejaculate into the collection cup. The test is based on the presence of a particular protein in the sperm. The results are available in a few minutes.
If the result is positive, that indicates that your sperm concentration is normal. A negative result means your sperm concentration is low and you should see a specialist. Home sperm test kits are convenient.
However, the range of information a home fertility kit can provide is limited. It cannot assess the semen volume, sperm count, movement, and shape.
6. What next if my sperm analysis is abnormal?
If the analysis has been concluded and your sperm is found to be abnormal, your doctor will refer you to a fertility specialist who will do further testing. The next step usually depends on the exact cause of the condition as discovered by the specialist. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing infertility.
Your doctor may prescribe drugs to elevate hormone levels which will in turn increase production of motile and normal sperm. These drug will also improve your sexual drive and reproductive life.
If the imaging finds an obstruction, you will be scheduled for a surgery to free the reproductive tract. If the problem has to do with increasing age, you may be given supplements that will help you conceive naturally.
Your doctor will also offer non-drug therapy which is mostly medical advice. You should go on a healthy diet, reduce alcohol consumption, smoke less, and wear loose fitting boxers and pants.
7. How much does male fertility test cost?
The cost of male fertility tests vary from place to place and depending on the coverage of the package. At Healthtracka, our semen analysis kit is highly affordable and covers the necessary fertility check.