One in six Australian couples will have a fertility issue at some point in their lives and one in 10 couples will have trouble conceiving their second child. You are not alone.
Don’t panic, your fertility journey doesn’t have to be an express service straight to IVF. Some simple changes can improve your chance of conceiving naturally.
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The World Health Organisation predicts that infertility will be the third most serious health condition in the 21st Century
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With 40% of fertility issues being male related, find out what may be causing you troubles, or learn more about male fertility testing
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The good news for blokes is that many of the sperm conditions affecting your fertility are preventable or reversible.
Here’s a fact for you; the lifecycle of sperm is 74-76 days. In other words, it takes somewhere between that long for new sperm to be produced and fully mature. This can be quite good news for men who are looking to conceive with their partner, as it means a little over two months of clean living may help you produce healthier, better quality sperm - sperm that’s capable of helping you and your partner become pregnant.
That said, in many cases where male infertility is diagnosed, there are no obvious signs of a problem. Usually, you’ll be able to have sex, maintain erections and ejaculate without difficulty and the quantity and appearance of your ejaculated semen can appear normal.
Read on to find out more about the symptoms, the science and the solutions.
Approximately two thirds of infertile men have sperm production problems - with low numbers being made, the sperm not functioning properly or a combination of both problems. But as we said above, often you won’t realise anything is wrong because there aren’t symptoms such as pain.
While your sperm do look a little like the pictures you saw in sex education at school - an aerodynamic tadpole - they aren’t as tough or strong as you might have been led to believe.
Sperm are highly specialised cells with a head that stores chromosomes and a tail that helps them swim. And it’s more common than you might think for guys to produce a large number of abnormal sperm.
Some of the main sperm production problems include:
These problems can be caused by a number of things or it might be a cause that can’t be identified:
We talk about how and why you can improve or change the lifestyle factors included in this list in our section on Sperm Health. The other issues can also be discussed with one of our Genea Fertility Specialists. While we sometimes cannot improve the quality of the sperm being produced, we have techniques to increase the odds of you and your partner conceiving by helping your existing sperm to fertilise the egg.
The first step in understanding how to proceed is a semen analysis. This area of medicine is called Andrology and it’s essentially the male equivalent of gynaecology. Genea’s andrology diagnostic services are world class with processes and procedures which match World Health Organisation standards and, in some cases, not conducted anywhere else in the country. In fact, Australia's first sperm microinjection pregnancies were achieved at Genea in 1989 and since then we have maintained our position as experts in treating male infertility.
Testing for male infertility is a very straightforward process and the basic analysis of your semen will examine three factors:
A 'normal' sperm count will have:
That is not to say that couples with a lower sperm count won’t get pregnant - after all, it just takes one sperm - just that the chances of pregnancy are reduced by low sperm counts or sperm that do not swim well.
The complete absence of sperm in your ejaculate (azoospermia) can be either because of a blockage in the organ that stores and nourishes sperm as they mature (epididymis) or in the long tube that transports sperm cells from the epididymis to the testicles (vas deferens), or a problem with the actual production of sperm in the testicles. We can sometimes overcome blockages like these with microsurgery. Even if sperm are not being produced, it may be possible to surgically extract enough sperm cells from the testes to use for assisted conception.
Abnormal morphology (the shape of the sperm) and poor motility (how they move) can prevent the sperm from reaching the female egg. The sperm need good motility to be able to swim well and survive for a number of hours in the female reproductive tract. If they do meet an egg, abnormal-looking sperm might be incapable of fertilising it.
Antibodies are the body’s natural defence against foreign objects. They are part of the immune system. Sometimes a woman’s immune system can identify your sperm as foreign and develop antibodies against them. You can even develop antibodies against your own sperm - an issue most common in men who have had a vasectomy reversal.
The antibodies can attack the sperm by paralysing them, causing them to clump together or coating them so that they can’t fertilise the egg. Antibodies will be found in the semen, the cervical mucus, or either partner’s blood.
We specialise in an extensive range of male fertility tests at Genea:
You can contact Genea’s world leading Andrology team on 02 9229 6445 to learn more about the services they provide or take the next step and organise to have some tests done.
Alternatively, come and see a Genea Fertility Specialist to see what tests you need and work on a plan to help you and your partner have a baby.
Make an appointment with our fertility GP.
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A complete absence of sperm (spermatozoa) in the semen. Detectable only by performing a sperm...
A long spiral string of genetic material (DNA) wound around supporting proteins. There are 46...
DNA is an abbreviation of deoxyribonucleic acid, a molecule made of a variable sequence of...
A finely coiled tubular structure, lying next to each testis in the scrotum,...
Refers to sperm, specifically to the shape and size of sperm as viewed under...
Motility refers to the movement and agility of sperm when viewed under a microscope....
The long duct that transports sperm cells from the epididymis to the seminal...