About 10 percent of heterosexual couples in the U.S. are defined as infertile, based on the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. When women have trouble conceiving, they usually are the first to look for causes of infertility and to seek treatment.
Yet modern science has determined that 40 to 50 percent of all infertility cases are due in part or in whole to the male partner, which is known as male factor infertility. More and more, men are becoming more aware of the importance of their fertility and taking steps to make sure they can have a family.
Men and Their Fertility
Men do have a “biological clock” but it ticks much more slowly than a woman’s does. A man may still be able to father children well into his elderly years, as long as he can still get an erection or produce sperm for use in IVF. Many men take it for granted that they don’t have to worry about fertility as they age. However, research has shown that older men have an increased time to conception and decreased semen quality. Younger men may have problems with infertility as well, due to lifestyle factors such as obesity and diabetes, which are increasingly common.
Infertility is a sensitive area for men emotionally. Many cultures stigmatize men who can’t impregnate a woman, viewing them as less masculine, not “real men.” Men are not routinely tested for fertility issues, and it’s not something they are asked about in an annual physical. The issue only arises when they are part of a couple trying to conceive without success. Even then, men are less likely to be evaluated for fertility problems unless the couple consults a reproductive endocrinologist, who will require testing for both partners in order to develop a fertility treatment plan.
Fertility Testing for Men
Men’s fertility is all about sperm—its quantity, quality, and their ability to deliver sperm to the female partner’s vagina. Diagnosis starts with a full history and physical exam. Semen analysis is the first test performed, in which a semen sample is evaluated for the volume, count, motility (ability to swim), concentration, and structure of the sperm. The most common problems are with making and growing sperm. Other tests may be recommended if the semen analysis or the history points to issues, including a hormonal profile, testicular biopsy, or an ultrasound to look for structural issues.
The good news is, even if sperm counts are low, assisted reproductive technology may make it possible to have a biological child. Eggs can be fertilized in the lab with ICSI, injecting a single sperm into an egg, and any resulting embryos used for IVF treatment.
At-Home Testing Through WIN for HIM
When it comes to fertility, it is important to test both partners before determining a course of treatment. Our WIN for HIM program is specifically tailored to men on their family-building journey. Members will have access to at-home semen analysis testing kits through Dadi, including 1 year of sperm storage, for easy and comfortable sperm testing. Our Nurse Care Managers and Behavioral Health Care Managers will become personal advocates, to review sperm testing results and treatment options, if needed, with one of our in-network fertility specialists. Learn more today and take charge of your reproductive health.
Starting the Conversation
More men are starting to think about their fertility and what they can do to preserve it. Many health problems and lifestyle choices such as smoking or using steroids can negatively affect a man’s fertility. Talking to their health care provider and asking about their fertility is a good way to start.