The male partner can sometimes be overlooked when couples try to conceive. Approximately 15% of couples pursuing a pregnancy experience infertility. Within these couples, a “male factor” is the sole cause in 30%, and both male and female factor issues are present in another 20% of couples. Collectively, 50% of couples have a male factor involved as a cause of their infertility.
Examining and evaluating the man is often invaluable in helping to optimize not only his reproductive potential, but also the reproductive potential of the couple. Here's what we look for when evaluating a man in a fertility clinic.
A male reproductive evaluation typically involves an office visit to a urologist with an interest in male reproduction. The physician will gather a medical history, asking about:
- Prior medical conditions and surgeries
- Prescription medications - some of these can impact fertility
- Sexual functioning (ability to achieve an erection, whether or not trying for a pregnancy is stressful)
- Lifestyle factors, including diet, smoking and alcohol use
Next, we perform a physical examination. This examination is often a key opportunity to identify physical conditions, such as varicocele, which can impact male reproduction. The testicles and scrotal contents are carefully assessed to identify physical factors that might impact male fertility. The exam is quick and painless, and an important aspect of the male examination.
Next, the male is asked to complete two types of laboratory tests. First, hormonal testing is performed. this is done via a blood draw. Approximately 20% of men pursuing a pregnancy have abnormal hormonal values. These abnormal findings provide the clinician with an opportunity to correct the hormonal abnormality and, in turn, optimize the testicular environment for sperm production.
Next, two semen tests are routinely ordered as part of the male workup. The male is asked to abstain from ejaculation for 2-3 days before each collection. Men are given the option of collecting the sample in a private collection room at the doctors’ office or at their own home. The laboratory tests provide invaluable information regarding possible male factor abnormalities that may respond to medical treatment.
Conclusions and Questions
In closing, the urologist will provide information regarding behavior and lifestyle factors that may help optimize male reproductive potential. Finally, the male is given a chance to have any questions or concerns specific to his circumstances addressed. The male partner is indeed an important contributor to a couple's reproductive efforts, and the information provided by a male workup can help contribute to success in the pursuit of a pregnancy.
We Can Help With Male Factor Infertility
At our Chicago fertility clinic, we offer caring, comprehensive care to both men and women who are concerned about their fertility. Schedule an appointment online to talk to our in-house male fertility specialist, Dr. Robert Brannigan.