Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, is a common first-line treatment for many causes of male-factor infertility. If the sperm count is low or the sperm have poor motility (meaning that they can’t swim well), then it may be difficult for enough sperm to navigate through the woman’s reproductive tract to reach the egg and fertilize it. IUI places the sperm directly into the uterus, so the sperm are much closer to their destination.
IVF, with or without ICSI
If a man’s sperm count is low or the sperm have poor motility, then it may be difficult for his sperm to fertilize an egg in the woman’s body, where they must swim long distances and seek out the egg. Sometimes, the sperm need some help getting close to the egg. Male fertility treatment may include common procedures like IVF.
In vitro fertilization, or IVF, places the sperm into a glass container along with the eggs, making it more likely that the sperm will fertilize an egg. If the eggs are fertilize to create embryos, the resulting embryos will later be transferred into the woman’s uterus, where it’s hoped that they’ll successfully implant and cause pregnancy.
To help the sperm successfully fertilize the egg, many centers use ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), in which the sperm is injected into the egg in the laboratory. This can help sperm that have abnormal shapes or poor motility to be able to fertilize an egg.
These procedures are used in some men who don’t have many or any sperm in the ejaculate. In many cases, this indicates a block somewhere in the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles out of the body. If the man’s body is still producing sperm, then these procedures may be able to retrieve them.
In a PESA (percutaneous epidydimal sperm aspiration) or TESA (testicular sperm aspiration) procedure, a small needle is used to remove sperm either directly from the testicle or from the epididymis, a tightly coiled tube that carries sperm from the testicle to the rest of the reproductive system. Even when the procedure is successful, there are rarely enough sperm retrieved to make IUI a good option, so the retrieved sperm are usually used in IVF.
In many cases, men with low sperm counts or poor sperm quality need referral to a urologist, to check for underlying disease that’s causing the problem.
Also, couples should consider the man’s general health to be just as important as the woman’s when trying to conceive a child. He needs healthy food, adequate sleep, stress relief, and other general health measures just as much as she does. Making a healthy baby takes two healthy parents! Both female and male fertility treatment are important. At our fertility clinic near Gilbert, Arizona, we provide holistic health care, including nutrition, mind-body medicine, massage, and acupuncture, to help you not only achieve pregnancy, but become the healthiest possible parents to your child.