Male Factor Infertility
While most couples usually focus on the female’s cycle, ovulation, and health when trying to conceive, up to 50% of all infertility cases are (partly or completely) impacted by the male counterpart. In fact, male sperm counts have decreased by 50% at a rate of 1.5% per year over the last 60 years — with little sign of slowing down. At Conceive Health, we diagnose and treat male factor infertility to help you grow your family.
The first — and most important — step is to get tested early on in your fertility journey via a semen analysis. This will help identify the following:
Count (How Many?)
Optimal Sperm count is at least 20 million per ml to achieve pregnancy. This number can be highly influenced by environmental factors (stress, male hormones, heat, chemicals). The great news is that it can be improved if treated for a full spermatocytic life cycle (almost 100 days).
Motility (Can they swim?)
More specifically, can they swim straight or make headway? Typically, motility is looked at as progressive, non-progressive, and immotile — and it’s normal to have a mix of all three. However, the goal is for 40% of the sperm sample to have progressive motility.
Morphology (Heads, tails, bodies?)
In a nutshell, does everyone have the right shaped head? The morphology is a testament to mature sperm (immature isn’t formed properly). If there is low morphology, the sperm may not be able to swim properly or fertilize the egg. We need at least 4% of the sample to have normal morphology. If morphology is low, we can do a ‘DNA fragmentation test’ to see the extent of the damage.
Viscosity (Thick or thin?)
Viscosity refers to the seminal fluid that the sperm is carried in. If it’s considered sticky, it’s difficult for the sperm to swim.If the male is dehydrated, this can also affect viscosity. Other reasons can be high white blood cells (bacterial contamination of fluid, or infection). On the opposite side, If viscosity or volume is low, then there are some medications and supplements that can help to thin the fluid.
DNA Fragmentation (Are your genes unravelled?)
Consider doing an in depth test, called a DNA fragmentation test, if a) your semen analysis reveals low morphology, b) if there is difficulty getting pregnant, or c) if there are repetitive pregnancy losses.
Sperm is a high contributor to placental formation (the development of the placenta) — this may be a reason why the egg isn’t fertilizing, or contributing to miscarriage. It truly does take two to tango (and in this case, egg and sperm). If there is a high level of degradation (fragmentation, like breaks and chips within DNA helix) it indicates a high level of oxidative stress.. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the DNA fragmentation should be less than 30%. If there is not an anatomical issue, then treatment response rates are more than 80% successful — we can genuinely impact DNA fragmentation quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find the answers to commonly asked questions about male factor infertility.
Can male factor infertility be cured?
- There are various options, even if you have attempted multiple IVF cycles and struggled with a low fertilization rate. For example, your medical team may try an ICSI (a specialized type of IVF that is used in cases of severe male infertility). You also have the option to get a sperm donor and split the cohort. Your reproductive team will be able to walk you through the best treatment options to help you grow your family.
How long before we see results?
It takes approximately 90 days to impact the health of sperm.
Does alcohol impact sperm health?
Yes, excessive consumption in any form will reduce sperm count and motility.
Can I continue after my partner is pregnant?
- Yes, and we recommend that you continue your treatment protocol at least until she passes the 12-week mark.. Not to mention, that most men feel great with the extra boost in antioxidants!
What is frequency of sex for optimal sperm count?
- When someone has a healthy sperm count, we recommend intimacy every other day during and around the woman’s fertile zone.
What if I miss my partner’s fertile window?
- Healthy sperm can survive in the vaginal canal for up to 5 days. So, if you are doing the deed prior to the ovulation window, those sperm may make it to the egg first.