When infertility is discussed, most of the time doctors first look to the woman. This is understandable since we have more reproductive parts and of course our cycle to contend with. I would also guess that it is because the woman is the first to seek medical consultation and is most proactive in getting tested.
However, if you are starting down the fertility specialist path; you may want your husband or spouse to jump in with both feet as well. There is just as much of a chance that the problem may lie with him as well.
There are six things that the doctors will test for:
1. Low Sperm Count
The most likely scenario for male infertility has to do with low sperm count. There are many reasons for a low count; including infection, hormone imbalance and varicoceles. Fortunately there are options such as FertilAid for Men to help increase sperm count. Doctors may even prescribe drugs commonly thought of as female fertility drugs; Clomid, Pergonal or HCG. If necessary there are also surgical procedures available to help as well.
2. Testicular Failure
When testing for sperm count, doctors may instead find that your partner is not producing any sperm at all. When this happens it is referred to as testicular failure. It is possible for the pituitary to be producing and releasing the reproductive hormones needed to produce sperm, but the testes to stop short of doing their part in the process.
Testicular failure can be caused by injury, surgery, drugs or tumors. The doctor may suggest a TESE testicular sperm extraction to try and collect sperm while it is still in the testes to then inject into the egg.
3. Hormonal Imbalances
Another common problem has to do with the male sex hormones responsible for creating sperm. When the man has very little or no FSH and/or LH, sperm production is compromised. When this happens, doctors may recommend taking the protein hormone gonadotropin, to help create hormonal balance in the body.
4. Blocked Sperm Ducts
10-15% of male infertility struggles may in fact be chalked up to blocked or damaged sperm ducts. If there is scarring from surgery or STDs or a vericocele vein has managed to push its way up against a duct, the result can be disappointing if you are trying to get pregnant. Often doctors can perform very minimal surgery to correct the blockage and allow the sperm to flow freely again!
5. Sperm Antibodies
10% of men experiencing infertility can blame it on their immune system. Their own body starts to work against them by producing antibodies that attack their own sperm. Interestingly, many men who have undergone vasectomy reversals experience this problem. Doctors here will usually recommend steroids, adrenal hormones or having their sperm washed to be used for an IUI (intrauterine insemination).
So, if you are starting to look at possible explanations for the infertility you and your partner are experiencing, make sure you check out his sperm!