Male infertility is not discussed often, but research shows that of the 15 percent of couples who are unable to achieve pregnancy after a year of trying, male infertility accounts for 50 percent of the problem. There are several causes of infertility in men, as well as several treatment options. Male infertility treatments can include antibiotics, surgical correction, medications and fertility drugs, intrauterine insemination treatments (IUI), in vitro fertilization treatments (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
Unlike women's infertility, there rarely are any symptoms of male infertility outside of the inability to produce offspring. When hormonal issues are the cause of infertility, then low libido, sexual dysfunction and abnormal hair growth can indicate infertility. Outside of these symptoms, a medical exam usually is the only way to determine whether male infertility treatments are necessary. The most common diagnostic tool for this is a semen analysis, during which a provided sample is tested by a lab to measure the amount of semen, the number of sperm and the sperm’s shape and movement. If this testing does not indicate any problems but infertility remains an issue, other testing might be needed, and doctors might perform a specialized semen analysis, blood work to check hormone levels, genetic karyotyping, an ultrasound, a testicular biopsy or a vasography.
After infertility is diagnosed, there are several options for male infertility treatments. If doctors determine that infertility is caused by an infection, they will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Surgery might be needed to remove an extra varicose vein in the scrotum or to repair a duct that is causing obstruction to the sperm. If medication is needed, men usually are prescribed the same drugs as women: clomiphene and human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG). These medicines prompt the testicles to produce sperm and can balance out any hormone issues that are reducing the amount of sperm produced.
If any of these treatments are unsuccessful, IUI or IVF treatments might be used. IUI male infertility treatments involve the harvesting of sperm, which is then inserted into the uterus through the cervix. IVF treatments involve harvesting sperm from the man and eggs from the woman, fertilizing the eggs and then inserting them into the uterus. In some cases when IVF is used, ICSI also might be needed if the health of the sperm is in question. This treatment involves the testing of individual sperm to find the healthiest one, which is then inserted into the egg.
Male infertility treatments often are successful in helping couples achieve their dream of having a biological child, but it is not always possible. In these cases, after a doctor has exhausted all possible male infertility treatments, he or she might discuss with the patient the possibility of utilizing a sperm donor or considering adoption. All of these options — whether it is the use of male infertility treatments, sperm donation or adoption — make it possible for almost all couples to bring children into their families.