Updated: May 13
Globally, one in eight to twelve couples experience infertility.
If a couple has not achieved a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, they are living with infertility.
One third of infertility cases are due to factors related to the male e.g. sperm quality or quantity, one third of cases are due to a mixture of male and female factors or are unexplained.
So male fertility testing is just as important as fertility testing in females.
This article will discuss male fertility testing. It is the final article of the 3-part-series on fertility testing. This article will answer these questions:
What are male fertility tests?
When should I have a male fertility test?
Where can I get a male fertility test done?
How much does a male fertility test cost?
Having a male fertility test at the doctors?
What happens after the tests?
Be sure to read part 1 and part 2 of the series. Part 1 covers the basics of conception, gives a definition of fertility, explains how fertility tests work and discusses whether you should have a fertility check before you start trying to conceive.
Male fertility testing is important. One third of problems with fertility are related to problems with the male reproductive system.
The main and most common male fertility test used is the semen analysis also called the sperm test.
A normal semen analysis does not guarantee that you are fertile.
If you and your partner have been trying to conceive for more than 12 months (female partner aged 35 or under) or 6 months (female partner age 36 or older) see your GP/family physician for initial investigations.
You should attend the appointment together with your partner. When you book the appointment let the receptionist know you are coming together so they can book enough time e.g. a double appointment.
Over 90% of couples trying to conceive (under 40 years) will conceive within 2 years of regular unprotected sex twice a week and over 80% of couples (under 40 years age) will conceive within 1 year of regular unprotected sex twice a week (with no other contraception). It takes longer for couples aged 40 or over to conceive.
The Sperm DNA fragmentation Test is a measure of quality of semen more specifically it looks for damage to the DNA (genetic material) in the sperm. Making lifestyle changes, ideally 3 months, before trying to conceive can reduce sperm DNA damage. The Sperm DNA fragmentation test isn’t widely used and isn’t available on the NHS.
Excessive alcohol intake is detrimental to semen quality. The department of health’s recommendations of 3-4 units per day for men is unlikely to affect semen quality
Elevated scrotal temperature can lead to reduced semen quality. Although it is uncertain whether wearing loose-fitting underwear improves fertility, the recommendation is to avoid wearing tight underwear.
There is an association between smoking and reduced semen quality. Although the full impact of smoking on male fertility is uncertain, it may reduce sperm DNA damage and stopping smoking will improve your overall health.
Men who have a BMI of 30 or over may have reduced fertility.
A diet rich in vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc and selenium can improve sperm quality.
What are male fertility tests? Why is male fertility testing important?
Globally, one in eight to twelve couples experience infertility. If a couple has not achieved a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, they are living with infertility. One third of infertility cases are due to factors related to the male e.g. sperm quality or quantity, one third of cases are due to a mixture of male and female factors or are unexplained and one third of cases related to female factors alone.
Therefore, when having fertility investigations, it’s just as important to investigate causes that could be related to the male as it is to investigate causes in the female.
Some cases of male factor infertility can be resolved with lifestyle changes or medical treatment.
Fertility tests can help determine whether one or more of those events within the sequence are working or are likely to be working and therefore may help understand the chances of becoming pregnant.
One test is not usually enough though. Several tests are required to gain a fuller picture of fertility. However, tests are expensive, and tests do not look at all parts of the conception process.