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Common tests for infertility: Men

The road to fertility treatment is paved with tests for both partners - here we outline the most frequently used

Posted: 1 March 2006
by ThinkBaby

Common fertility tests for men
  • Semen analysis - As there's a 50-50 chance that at least part of the problem could lie with your partner's semen, a semen analysis is usually one of the early fertility tests recommended. Your partner will need to deliver a sample of his sperm in a sterile container, usually after several days of sexual abstinence, and it will then be analysed for several properties. The sperm count is the number of sperm per ml, and under 20 million is considered a 'low' sperm count. A vitality count is done to check that at least 75% of the sperm are alive. Also important is how mobile the sperm are, sperm motility, at least 50% of the sperm should be swimming and moving around. A further test may be used to see what distance mobile sperm manage to swim. Finally the shape of the sperm is also looked at to check that at least 30% of the sperm are of 'normal' shape.

    Given that the quality of sperm can vary from time to time you may well have to give samples on two or three different occasions.

  • MAR test - Your semen sample may also be tested for Mixed Agglutination Reaction, a test to check whether the semen contains antisperm antibodies that may cause the semen to clump and reduce fertility.

  • Hormone tests - As with women, men's hormone levels can affect their fertility by impacting on sperm production. Levels of FSH, LH, testosterone and prolactin hormones can all be tested to indicate whether a problem may be treated with hormone therapy or whether physical investigations are necessary.

  • Ultrasound scanning - Ultrasound imaging uses soundwaves to create a picture of what's going on inside the body, and can enable doctors to get a good look at the scrotum to check for abnormalities.

  • Testicular biopsy - In the event of there being problems with a man's sperm count or shape, a physical investigation of the testes may help shed light on the cause. A testicular biopsy can be used to check whether an infection could be preventing sperm from maturing properly. The procedure involves the removal of a sample of tissue from one or both testicles under a local anaesthetic and using a very small incision in the scrotum. Following the removal of the tissue the incisions will be stiched. The whole thing should take only fifteen to twenty minutes and should be painless, however, you may experience some soreness of the testicles for a few days as the wounds heal.

  • Vasogram - If tests show that the testicles are producing healthy sperm, a vasogram can be used to check whether tubal blockage is preventing them from being released with the seminal fluid. As with the hysterosalpingogram for women, a radiographic dye is used to look for blockages. The dye is injected into the vas deferens (the tube connecting the testis with the seminal vesicles) and then x-ray images are taken to show how the dye spreads.

  • Genetic screening - If an extremely low or zero sperm count is detected, genetic screening is usually recommended as infertile men have a 7% chance of carrying a chromosomal abnormality. Common problems looked for are whether the man is a carrier of cystic fibrosis and whether he has Y-chromosome microdeletion which affects sperm production.

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Vasogram, infertility, fertility, Laparoscopy, Hysterosalpingogram, screening, test

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