How Does A Doctor Test For Infertility In Men?

male fertility problems
How Is Male Fertility Tested?

In nearly 40 percent of couples who are not able to conceive, it is the man who has the fertility problem (read about male infertility). The quickest and easiest test a man can do is to have his semen analyzed and a sperm count performed. This is carried out at a fertility clinic. He will be asked to ejaculate into a container which is then sent to the lab for testing. A doctor will also carry out a physical examination to check for any visible signs of problems around the sexual organs. He will also want to take a complete medical and sexual history. The result of the sperm count should be available quite quickly. A count of 20 million per ml or above, is considered to be fertile (the average is 60-80 million). A lower count is called oligozoospermia and no sperm at all is called azoospermia. If your partner’s sperm count is low and does not improve after a few months of lifestyle changes (caffeine, smoking and alcohol can reduce sperm production), then further testing may be recommended.

Note: Attending a reputable fertility clinic for male fertility testing is important because not all doctors or even gynecologists have the necessary facilities, experience or training to interpret test results. Some health insurance policies will cover the cost, but it is not hugely expensive.

Next Level Assessment: Hormones
If the results indicate that your partner's sperm count is low, some simple blood tests can be performed to check his hormone levels. Irregular levels of hormones could affect the production and quality of his sperm (see causes of infertility in men). If an imbalance is found, it may be possible to treat it with hormone replacement drugs. If it turns out he has testicular failure (indicated by low levels of testosterone and infertility), and he can't produce sperm at all, you may need to consider using donor sperm.

Final Level Assessment: Physical Damage
If all the results of previous tests come back 'normal', doctors might suggest a battery of other tests to check for physical damage in the testes and ducts which the sperm travel along. This can range from ultrasound scan (checking for signs of blockages or inflammation), to a testicular biopsy (to see if there is any sperm generation in the testicular tissue) or genetic testing for chromosome disorders (usually offered to men with a sperm count of less than 5 million per ml).

Next see our article on male infertility treatment.

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