What you need to know about male fertility

A common statistic you will hear in relation to fertility is that 1 in 6 couples worldwide struggle to conceive. Many people assume that in the majority of these cases of infertility, treatments such as IVF are used to overcome female fertility issues. However, it has been found that over a third of cases are due to male factor infertility.

TFP Fertility Group, one of the UK’s largest IVF providers and fertility specialists, looks to encourage men to speak up about their experiences to open the conversation up around male fertility.

fertility

Cropped image of young couple holding hands while sitting on the couch at the psychotherapist. Doctor is making notes

What are the Causes of Male Infertility?

Generally, millions of sperm cells are produced in the testes every day, with each sperm remaining in the testes for approximately 10 weeks. The most common cause of male infertility is the sperm being of low quality. Common sperm abnormalities are:

  • Low sperm count, or no sperm present at all
  • Sperm that are not moving properly
  • Abnormally shaped sperm – making it harder for them to move and fertilise an egg

 

Problems with sperm are a common issue and can occur for a number of reasons including lifestyle factors, testicular infections or injury, hormonal defects, cancer, genetic conditions and uses of different medicines. It is also worth noting that fertility can change over time, even if you have already fathered a child. This may be due to illness, a change in lifestyle or age.

 

Fertility Tests for Men

The first test when looking at male fertility is a semen analysis which, in addition to the sample’s volume and pH, assesses the following:

  • Sperm Count: the number of sperms present in each millilitre of semen
  • Sperm Motility: how well the sperms are moving
  • Sperm Morphology: the number of sperm that are of normal size and shape

 

The results from this test can help to diagnose possible sperm problems and to help determine which treatment is required.

 

Which fertility treatments can help to overcome male infertility?

Treatment of male infertility is tailored to the individual, and there may be simple lifestyle changes that can be made in order to improve the quality of the sperm. However, in some cases, treatment may be required, with options including:

  • Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): In many cases of male factor infertility, a procedure called ICSI is used. This is when sperm is injected directly into the egg as part of the IVF process. This can help to overcome low sperm count or motility
  • Surgical Sperm Retrieval: Men who have no sperm in the ejaculate, may have to have sperm surgically retrieved prior to ICSI
  • Donor Sperm: In some cases, it may be that donor sperm is required in order to achieve a pregnancy, through known or altruistic donation. One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is whether donor conception is the right fertility treatment for you. Special counselling sessions are available at fertility clinics to discuss implications and feelings surrounding donor treatments

 

What support is available for men as they go through fertility treatment?

Male fertility issues can often be seen as a taboo subject, and research has found that over half of men wouldn’t be open to discussing infertility with their partner. Due to the fact, men are less likely to be open about their feelings during fertility treatment, it can be challenging to find someone to talk to and confide in who understands.

 

Fertility Counselling

Fertility Counselling can help throughout treatment to give you the opportunity to talk through your concerns with a trained and qualified professional. This can help you cope, make the best choices for you, and feel in control again.

 

Other Resources you may wish to explore:

Fertility Network UK – The National Charity for anyone experiencing fertility problems.

HIMfertility – The HIMfertility campaign was set up by comedian, Rhod Gilbert, to encourage men to talk about fertility problems and signpost them and their partners to much-needed support.

Men’s Health Forum – The Men’s Health Forum is a charity supporting men’s health in England, Wales and Scotland.

 

For more information about fertility checks and treatments please visit TFP Fertility Group.

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