If you are seeking to start a family, but are encountering problems, you are not alone. As many as 15% of couples struggle with conception, with male infertility accounting for or contributing to up to 60% of cases1. If you and your partner are part of this 15% of couples, you should both seek a professional fertility evaluation, as factors contributing to conception, or the lack thereof, are unique to each individual and couple. For men, a thorough male fertility evaluation usually involves examination of the following aspects:
Your doctor will need to know a little more about you and your attempts at conception. You will need to provide information on things like:
- when and how frequently you and your partner have sex
- how long you have been having difficulty conceiving
- childhood illnesses and developmental history
- medical conditions, medications, and allergies
- sexual history and STDs
- exposure to toxins
In addition to knowing your history, the doctor will also want to understand where things stand today—with your semen. Analysis of a semen sample provides the doctor with information about sperm concentration, motility, and morphology, as well as overall semen volume. If the semen analysis raises any red flags, or if no abnormalities are identified that can account for infertility, additional information gathering and testing might be in order.
Medical History and Physical Examination
If further information is needed, the next step is to complete a medical history and physical examination. Your medical history can identify and risk factors that can contribute to infertility, including elements of your family history or lifestyle. The physical examination focuses largely on the reproductive organs, determining if any physical factors contribute to infertility.
Many causes of male infertility can be identified by the previous steps, but sometimes further testing is required. Each patient is unique, and a medical professional will work with you to determine which steps you need to take to determine the cause of infertility. For example, you may undergo an endocrine evaluation to determine if a hormonal abnormality plays a part, or your doctor may recommend ultrasonography to image your reproductive tract. These and many other specialized tests and procedures are available to aid your doctor in discovering the source of infertility. A thorough fertility evaluation performed by a caring medical professional will help you identify any obstacles to starting your family. Since many conditions that affect fertility can be treated, this evaluation may be the first step in opening doors to solutions.
- The Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (2012). Diagnostic evaluation of the infertile male: a committee opinion. Fertility and Sterility, 98(2), 294–301. Retrieved from http://www.asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/News_and_Publications/Practice_Guidelines/Committee_Opinions/optimal_evaluation_of_the_infertile_male(1).pdf
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