When a couple has not been able to conceive over the course of at least one year, both partners need to proceed with a comprehensive physical and medical history. Male fertility testing is a simple and routine procedure. Male infertility alone accounts for approximately one-third of all cases of infertility.
Male fertility tests
A semen analysis is the most common procedure when it comes to male fertility testing and seeking to determine if there is a male infertility factor. Sperm is collected into a specimen jar and presented to a lab technician who examines the sperm under a microscope in order to evaluate the count, shape, appearance, and mobility of the sperm.
While determining the sperm count, the technician will also be checking to see if the sperm concentration is above or below 20 million sperm cells per milliliter of ejaculation fluid.
If the sperm count is found to be low, the fertility specialist will probably test the blood testosterone, FSH, LH and prolactin levels. There are a number of supplements available to help improve sperm parameters such as count, motility and morphology.
Urinalysis can be used to search for white blood cells–an indicator of possible infection. Urinalysis will also show the possible presence of sperm in the urine–an indicator of a possible problem with ejaculation known as retrograde ejaculation.
If the medical history, physical examination, and semen analysis of the male partner are normal, the focus of attention will shift to the female partner. Further male factor evaluation is unlikely to be necessary in most cases.
Other Male Fertility Tests
However, in some cases additional laboratory and sperm analysis tests might be recommended including any of the following tests:
- Sperm agglutination: A laboratory test involving the examination of sperm under a microscope to determine if the sperm are clumping together. Clumping prevents sperm from swimming through the cervical mucus.
- Sperm penetration assay: A laboratory test utilizing hamster eggs to evaluate a sperm’s capability of penetrating the egg. This test is rarely used.
- Hemizona assay: A laboratory test in which a non-usable human egg is cut in half. The purpose of the procedure is to see if the sperm are able to penetrate the outermost protective layer of the egg.
- Acrosome reaction: A laboratory test that helps determine if sperm heads are able to go through the chemical changes necessary to dissolve an egg’s tough outer shell.
- Hypo-osmotic swelling: A laboratory test that uses a special sugar and salt solution to evaluate the sperm’s tail and ability of the sperm to penetrate the egg. The tails of healthy sperm tend to swell in the solution in contrast with dead or abnormal sperm where the tails do not swell.
- Testicular biopsy: A small piece of tissue is removed from the tubules in the testes and examined to determine how well sperm are being produced.
- Vasography: An x-ray exam is used to determine if there is blockage or leakage of sperm in the vas deferens.
- Ultrasonography: An exam used to locate damage or blockages in the male reproductive tract, including the prostate, seminal vesicles, and ejaculatory ducts.
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For further information about these tests, contact your fertility specialist.
Want to Know More?
- Infertility 101: What You Need to Know First
- Male Infertility
- Female Infertility
- Infertility Medications
- Boost Your Fertility with Antioxidant Supplements
Compiled using information from the following sources:
2. American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)