The global incidence of infertility affects 72.4 million couples. Amidst that, around 40-50% accounts for male factors. Although females are more subjected to the questions of society when it comes to infertility, we fail to realize that a successful pregnancy is a 50-50 affair.
It is always important to empower and educate themselves about the situations, the shortcomings, and what leads to infertility problems in men and women. Sometimes, the ideal step towards a successful pregnancy (after several tries) is to consult a specialist.
This article will discuss everything about male and female infertility, the available fertility tests for men and women, and the correct road to getting treated for the shortcomings.
Male Fertility Tests
Proper medical diagnosis is crucial for quicker recovery when it comes to infertility. Remember that a man or a woman is deemed “infertile” only after 12 months of engaging in unprotected sex. Many couples believe that trying for one or two months without success is infertility. However, medicine states otherwise.
When it comes to male infertility, there are a variety of available tests to determine the reason behind infertility. Some of the most prevalent ones include:
The initial and the most common test for male infertility is a physical examination. This involves the specialist doing a comprehensive physical scoping of your body, genitals, etc., to look for visible abnormalities and injuries.
The initial consultation also involves discussing any pre-existing medical condition, medications one is taking, and any history of surgery that could compromise one’s fertility. The doctor will also need insight on the patient’s sexual health, libido, sexual history, etc.
Finding out the quality and the functionality of the semen is also crucial when testing for male infertility. The semen analysis, otherwise known as the HSF test for males, peeks into multiple factors related to the semen, including:
- Quality and composition of the semen
- Vitality and motility of the sperm
- Check for the number of sperms in the sample
- Look for abnormalities to the shape of the sperm
- Prevalent signs of infections
There are two ways to collect a semen sample. The patient can masturbate, ejaculate and drop the semen sample directly at the doctor’s office. In an alternative method, the semen sample can be collected in a special condom when the patient engages in sexual intercourse with their partner.
Depending on the reports, the doctor will either move ahead with their treatment plan or ask the patient’s partner to get tested.
Imaging – Ultrasound
Another crucial and effective test for male infertility is using ultrasound imaging. Two primary types are done, including:
Scrotal ultrasound – checks for varicocele or other abnormalities in the testicular structure, size, and functions.
Transrectal ultrasound – is done using the insertion of a lubricated want through the rectum to check for prostate health and prevalent blockages in the tubes.
Following semen analysis, if the sperm count comes as low, your doctor will suggest undergoing genetic testing. If the patient has abnormalities with their reproductive anatomy due to a genetic predisposition, genetic testing can find the cause. It helps diagnose any prevalent congenital reproductive abnormalities.
Like in women, hormones play an equally important role in male fertility. Three hormone sources in men include the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and testicles. Any abnormalities in the hormonal levels in the bloodstream affect sperm health and production.
Hormone testing checks testosterone levels in the body to determine if a hormonal imbalance is contributing to male infertility.
Although quite rare, testicular biopsy is done by isolating sample tissue from the testicle and sent in for lab testing. The biopsy determines the availability and rate of sperm production. If the sperm production is found to be normal in the reports, the infertility is likely due to an undiagnosed blockage in the reproductive tract.
This test is done to diagnose retrograde ejaculation in men. In this condition, the urine has traces of semen in it. This indicates that the semen travels posteriorly into the urinary bladder instead of traveling to the penis for normal ejaculation. It is a matter of concern and needs immediate medical treatment for correction.
Specialized Sperm Function Tests
The vitality and health of the sperm determine the main prospect of male fertility. So, it isn’t surprising that doctors suggest getting complete profiling of the sperm to check for abnormalities. The sperm testing checks the vitality and virility of the sperm, how they are penetrating the egg or if they are having issues penetrating the egg’s layers.
Anti-sperm antibodies testing
If the cause behind infertility is still uncertain, anti-sperm antibodies testing is done. This checks for the rare instance when the sperm comes in contact with the body’s immune system. This leads to the development of anti-sperm antibodies, leading to its destruction.
Once the sperm sample is collected, the doctor then checks for the prevalence of the antibodies in the sperm composition. If the antibodies level in the sperm is high, the sperm will have a harder time fertilizing the released egg.
Are the Home Testing Kits for Male Infertility Worthy?
Home testing kits are very readily available in the market now. Not only are they more accessible and easier to use from the comfort of your home, but they also come with their fair share of ups and downs.
The home kits are viable if that is what you are worried about. However, you also need to understand that they come with their fair share of concerns.
Most of the home kits help determine the sperm count and don’t talk much about the quality, motility, and virility of the sperm. Also, the low and high sperm count range isn’t standard across all home kits, so there is a diversion there too.
Ideally, home kits are suitable for initial testing when you don’t want to dish out all the information to a professional. However, if you want a complete picture of the drawbacks and shortcomings that contribute to infertility, you must visit a specialist.
Male Fertility Tests: Conclusion
Male infertility is nothing to be ashamed of. If you and your partner struggle to get pregnant, consulting a specialist can help guide you through the problems. Getting an early diagnosis helps treat the condition faster and with more accuracy. Also, most of the causes of male infertility are treatable with advanced medical technologies.
Female Infertility Tests
Female infertility is a medical condition wherein the female patient cannot conceive successfully after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse. The age-standardized prevalence of female infertility has increased to 14.962% per 100,000 women globally. The shift has been drastic, and the numbers are growing incessantly every year.
If you have indulged in unprotected sex for over a year and you can’t conceive, getting a proper medical diagnosis is ideal. In this case, an experienced gynecologist can help identify the problems with proper testing to find the causes behind the condition.
Let us walk you through a list of all the female infertility tests that are prescribed to women struggling with conceiving a baby.
Top Female Infertility Tests
Female infertility can result from different causes. Some are due to hormonal imbalance in the body, and some are due to anatomical anomalies of the reproductive organs.
When you consult a gynecologist with concerns about your fertility, the first line of diagnosis is to get a comprehensive medical history. This includes insights about your menstrual cycles, autoimmune disorders, and any genetic predisposition that could contribute to the causes of infertility.
Following the routine discussion, the following female infertility tests are done to get a coherent diagnosis.
Before further testing, the initial step towards a proper infertility diagnosis involves a routine physical examination. This can involve a pelvic examination, checking the BMI of the patient, etc., to rule out any physical concerns with the body.
The physical examination also involves getting insights into any pre-existing medical conditions too. Your gynecologist will also enquire about your sexual health, libido, etc.
Around 25% of the causes of female infertility stems from ovulation disorders. The condition is generally marked by the lack or irregular production from the ovary. This can result in irregular menstrual cycles, amenorrhea and severe hormonal disbalances.
Several women trying to get pregnant often record their peak ovulation days to engage in sexual intercourse for successful fertilization. Conducting ovulation testing can determine if the problem is due to anovulation or not. The at-home ovulation kits also determine the hormonal levels, which helps with the diagnosis.
Ovarian reserve testing
Ovarian reserve testing is advised first if the female patient is above 35. This is to determine the remnant available follicles in the ovaries. The test also determines the quality of the eggs available for ovulation.
Ovarian reserve testing is done via a series of blood tests that check the hormonal balance in the bloodstream. The blood tests are done to check the levels of FSH, Estradiol, Anti-müllerian Hormone (AMH) at the beginning of the menstrual cycle. Besides that, a vaginal ultrasound is also done for further and better testing.
If the gynecologist or the fertility specialist believes that the problem lies in the uterus, a Hysterosalpingography is prescribed. This involves the X-ray imaging of the patient’s uterus and fallopian tubes.
A catheter with a biodegradable dye is inserted through the cervix into the fallopian tubes and a woman’s uterus during the procedure. The X-ray machine then picks up the imaging of the insides, and the dye finds any kinds of prevalent blockages or obstructions throughout the reproductive anatomy of the patient.
This test is ideal for diagnosing polyps, fibroids or obstructive cysts in the fallopian tubes or the uterus.
One of the most basic female fertility tests is ultrasound imaging. This is done for a routine abdominal or pelvic examination. This helps diagnose anatomical issues with the patient, like bulky uterus, enlarged ovaries, abnormally shaped uterus, etc.
The ultrasound imaging is also a definitive way to determine if the patient has medical conditions like endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, etc., that could be contributing to infertility.
Routine blood tests – hormonal testing
Since the body’s hormones play a crucial role in pregnancy, checking for the hormonal balance in the bloodstream is an important part of the diagnosis. The right balance of hormones in the blood contributes to the eggs’ healthy maturity in the ovarian follicles.
One of the most common hormone tests is done of the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) three days after the patient starts menstruating. Tests for estradiol, progesterone, prolactin are often suggested for a more thorough diagnosis.
Much like Hysterosalpingography, the Sonohysterogram is conducted to check for anatomical issues with the uterus. In this test, a saline solution is injected into the uterine cavity while a transvaginal ultrasound wand is inserted to develop clear imaging of the inside.
The test effectively diagnoses issues with the uterine shape or other contributing issues, including lesions and irregular uterus growth.
Although done on rare occasions, this is treated as a last resort when the doctor can’t find any issues in the other tests. Getting a genetic reading allows the specialists to determine if genetic sequencing issues contribute to infertility.
This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure where a small camera is inserted into the body through a small incision under the navel. The doctor then explores the reproductive anatomy of the patient to check for issues related to the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries. This procedure is ideal for the diagnosis of endometriosis.
The surgical procedure is also used for surgically removing fibroid, polyps, etc.
A lot similar to laparoscopy, hysteroscopy is localized to the uterus only. The procedure is done to check for fibroids or polyps in the uterus and repair additional abnormalities in the uterus. The camera is inserted via the cervix, so no incisions are made in this case.
However, if the doctor finds adherence of tissues, etc., the same is surgically removed during the diagnosis.
Female Infertility Tests: Conclusion
Female infertility is common and, in most cases, treatable. If you are experiencing issues with conception, consult a doctor instead of taking things for granted. Sometimes, the underlying causes can be severe and can lead to further complications if left untreated. So, getting a proper diagnosis is crucial for a successful pregnancy and healthier physical well-being.
1-Overview | NCBI
2-Overview | NCBI
3- Ovulation testing | NCBI