In the United States approximately 2,000,000 men are diagnosed with infertility problems. About 30 percent of all infertility problems are identified as male-factor infertility, and another 20% is combined male-female factor.
Men to consider fertility testing sooner rather than later. Evaluation of male factor fertility parameters is non-invasive and less costly than it is for female factor. Ruling out a male factor problem can move the process along and perhaps save a couple valuable time and financial resources. Home testing can be an easy, inexpensive way to determine whether low sperm count is an issue, although it does not measure other factors such as sperm shape and size and sperm motility.
The good news is that almost 99% of male infertility cases can be resolved with a combination of lifestyle changes and medical techniques.
Lifestyle changes are naturally the easiest solutions to implement. For example, statistics show that smoking can increase male infertility by as much as 30 percent. Up to 13 percent of cases of male infertility may be the result of smoking, and even as few as five cigarettes a day can negatively impact fertility.
Being overweight and eating foods high in fat are also risk factors for infertility. According to some sources, eating a high-fat diet can decrease sperm count. In addition, overweight men often experience a decreased libido as well as decreased testosterone resulting from increased estrogen. Likewise, extreme heat, such as from hot tub use, and long hours of cycling can contribute to diminished fertility in men.
Male-factor infertility used to be a much bigger challenge. Now, only one percent of cases can’t be resolved—but it’s a diagnosis that is often suffered in silence due to stigma, and many men don’t or are reluctant to seek treatment as a result.
Today’s best practices are centered on in-vitro fertilization (IVF) combined with intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI. ICSI is used when male-factor infertility is preventing egg fertilization. Men with contributing medical conditions such as diabetes, low sperm count, varicocele (swelling of veins in the testicle), and infections can be helped with ICSI.
For men diagnosed as sterile, there is a new sperm retrieval technique called microdissection testicular sperm extraction, or Micro TESE. This procedure involves harvesting sperm directly from the man’s testicles. An incision is made in the scrotum through which the surgeon is able to magnify the testicular tissue to 20x. The magnification allows the surgeon to identify areas that are most likely to contain sperm, excise the tissue in these areas and harvest the sperm. The chance of finding sperm through the Micro TESE procedure is greater than 60 percent, twice the success rate of non-micro surgery or needle biopsies.
Men often are reluctant to seek treatment for infertility due to embarrassment. The Infertility Awareness Association of Canada urges men who are experiencing infertility not to delay treatment as male fertility may diminish with age.