Exploring Male Infertility and its Impact on the Fertility Journey

technician in lab coat looking through microscope


technician in lab coat looking through microscope

The path to parenthood is a deeply personal and often challenging journey for many couples. While infertility is a struggle that both partners can face, male infertility is a topic that is sometimes overlooked or misunderstood. It is often assumed that the problem lies with the female partner, however in nearly 30% of infertility cases, male infertility is the cause. In this article, we will address the role of male infertility in the IVF process, including the use of sperm donors and other male fertility treatments.

Male infertility refers to a condition in which a man experiences difficulties in impregnating a fertile female partner due to issues related to his reproductive system or sperm quality. Infertility is generally defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse. Male infertility can result from various factors, including:

  1. Low Sperm Count (Oligospermia): This is when a man’s semen contains fewer sperm than the normal range (typically below 15 million sperm per milliliter). A low sperm count can reduce the chances of sperm successfully fertilizing an egg. 
  2. Abnormal Sperm Function: Even if a man has a sufficient sperm count, the sperm may have mobility issues (asthenospermia) or abnormal morphology (teratospermia), meaning they may not swim effectively or have a proper shape to penetrate and fertilize an egg. Sperm count and function can be evaluated with a semen analysis
  3. Blockages or Structural Problems: Physical obstructions, such as blockages in the male reproductive tract or structural abnormalities in the testes or ducts, can prevent sperm from being ejaculated.
  4. Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal imbalances, such as low testosterone or high levels of prolactin, can disrupt sperm production and function.
  5. Genetic Factors: In some cases, genetic factors can contribute to male infertility, leading to issues with sperm production or function.

Emotional Strain: Dealing with male infertility can be emotionally challenging. Men often experience feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy, which can strain their relationship with their partner.

Relationship Stress: Infertility can put a strain on even the strongest relationships. Open communication and support are crucial for navigating this difficult period together.

Financial Costs: Fertility treatments can be expensive, adding a financial burden to the emotional one. Couples may need to make difficult decisions about their treatment options.

Male infertility is a complex issue, and its diagnosis and treatment often require medical evaluation by a urologist or fertility specialist. Fortunately, many cases of male infertility can be treated or managed. Making healthy lifestyle choices such as maintaining a balanced diet, managing stress, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol can improve sperm quality. In some cases, medications can address hormonal imbalances or other underlying issues, and surgical procedures can correct physical blockages or structural problems. Ultimately, Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART treatments) like intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) can help couples achieve pregnancy when male infertility is a factor. 

Donor sperm insemination is a relatively low cost alternative treatment for couples with male infertility who do not wish to consider In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), or in cases where despite all efforts, no sperm could be retrieved from the male partner for IVF treatment. Sperm donation is a carefully regulated and ethical process. Donors typically remain anonymous, and both parties—the donors and the recipients—have legal rights and protections. 

The process generally involves:

  • Donor Screening: Donors undergo extensive medical and psychological evaluations, as well as genetic testing, to ensure they are suitable candidates.
  • Sperm Collection: Donors provide sperm samples through a controlled and monitored process.
  • Storage and Testing: Sperm samples are carefully stored and undergo additional testing to confirm their quality and safety.
  • Matching and Fertility Treatments: Sperm from donors is matched with recipients based on specific criteria, and it can be used in various assisted reproductive techniques, including IVF or IUI.

Male infertility is a challenging issue that affects many couples on their fertility journey. It’s essential to recognize that infertility is not solely a female concern and to seek professional help and support when facing this issue. There are various treatments available to address male infertility, including the use of sperm donors and other ART options. By working closely with a fertility specialist, couples can increase their chances of success in conceiving a child through IVF.

To determine if male infertility is impacting your fertility journey, request an appointment with Boca Fertility by phone or request an appointment online today.

A Comprehensive Overview of the IVF Process

doctor stands at an ultrasound machine with the ultrasound wand in their hand

doctor stands at an ultrasound machine with the ultrasound wand in their hand

For couples facing infertility, the journey to parenthood can be filled with challenges and uncertainties. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has emerged as a groundbreaking solution, offering hope to those struggling to conceive. In this comprehensive guide, we will take you through the IVF process step by step, demystifying the procedure and helping you gain a thorough understanding of what to expect on your path to parenthood.

The IVF process typically begins with an initial consultation with one of our fertility specialists.

During this meeting, you’ll discuss your medical history, previous fertility treatments, and any underlying conditions that might affect the success of IVF. Your doctor will outline the treatment plan, including any required testing, as well as address any questions or concerns. Some required procedures or tests in preparation for IVF may include a high complexity semen analysis or an ovarian reserve assessment

After the initial consultation, the first step in the IVF process is the ovarian stimulation phase. Your fertility specialist will determine which stimulation protocol is best for you, taking into consideration your age, weight, and ovarian reserve assessment indicators. Your fertility specialist will then monitor your progress through blood tests and ultrasounds to ensure the eggs are maturing as expected. An ovulation trigger will be administered after 10 days of ovarian stimulation when the leading follicles containing eggs reach a diameter of 20mm.

Once the eggs have reached the optimal size, a minor surgical procedure called egg retrieval is scheduled. This is a minor procedure using transvaginal ultrasound guidance, performed in our in-office operating room suite. This takes about 15 minutes to complete and is done using intravenous sedation administered by our board-certified anesthesiologist.

After the egg retrieval, you will be given medications to suppress your ovary. Expect to begin your menses in 10-14 days. Meanwhile, all of your embryos making it to day 5-7 in the laboratory will be frozen and transferred one at a time starting with your next menstrual cycle.

We do not transfer fresh embryos, so all embryos are frozen at the blastocyst stage. The frozen embryos will be thawed and transferred in the subsequent cycle.

Now that your eggs have been removed from your ovaries, the next step is for the embryologist to prepare your eggs and the male sperm for fertilization. This can be done through traditional insemination or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected directly into an egg. After fertilization, the embryos are monitored for development. 

The dishes containing the eggs and sperm are placed in embryo incubators. A computer controlled system precisely regulates temperature, oxygen and CO2 levels within the incubators conducive for embryonic growth.

The eggs will be checked 24 hours later to see how many of them were fertilized. You will receive a daily briefing from the IVF nurse coordinator, informing you of the embryos development.

The resulting embryos are cultured in a controlled environment for several days, typically five or six. During this time, the embryologist assesses their quality and selects the healthiest embryos for transfer. Any additional embryos may be frozen for future use.

The doctor will discuss with you the number of embryos to be transferred. In general, only one embryo is transferred. The embryo transfer is not painful and takes only a moment to accomplish.

Your pregnancy test will be performed 9 days after the embryo transfer.

If the blood test confirms pregnancy, you’ll continue to work with your fertility specialist to monitor the pregnancy’s progress. If successful, you’ll transition to regular prenatal care with an obstetrician.

The IVF process can be challenging, both emotionally and physically, but it has provided hope and joy to countless families worldwide. Understanding the steps involved can alleviate some of the uncertainty and anxiety that often accompanies infertility. It’s important to remember that IVF outcomes can vary, and multiple cycles may be necessary to achieve success. Schedule an appointment with a qualified fertility specialist at Boca Fertility who can tailor the treatment plan to your specific needs.