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Sperm count

OUR HEALTH:

Too few, or too slow swimmers can affect pregnancy chances

February 28, 2011|C. Ruth Ebrahim, Our Health Magazine
(Page 2 of 2)

Dr. Garvin said the most common physical cause of low sperm count is the presence of varicose veins, or varicocele.  A varicocele is a swelling of veins that drain the testicle.  A swollen vein may prevent normal cooling of the testicle, which leads to reduced sperm count and slower moving sperm.  Varicose veins typically occur on the left side of the scrotum, Dr. Garvin explained.  He said varicose veins are the single most common cause of secondary infertility, or the inability of a man who has previously fathered a child to father a child later in his life.  “There are a significant number of men who have a low sperm count due to a compromising of the testicles,” Dr. Garvin said.  “Presence of varicose veins is the thing urologists can help with the most.”  Surgery to re-route the vein is minimally invasive, out-patient surgery, and typically helps increase sperm production.

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However, sometimes no underlying cause of low sperm count or poor sperm performance can be found.  In these cases, couples are referred for further fertility assistance.  “If they’ve just got low sperm count or poor sperm motility, there’s not much we can do other than refer them to a fertility specialist who can help the sperm get to where it needs to go,” Dr. Garvin said.  “If you have 100 million sperm but they’re not swimming as quickly as they should, that’s when you have to move toward assisted fertility.”

Fertility specialists also take into consideration a man’s sperm production.  Based on whether a low sperm count, a poor sperm shape, or a poor sperm motion cause the fertility difficulties a decision will be made about which type of fertility assistance to pursue.  Medical professionals say that 50 percent of difficulty conceiving a child is due to male factors.  There are three basic levels of intervention depending on the cause of decreased fertility.  If the male partner’s sperm count, motility and morphology are normal, then the female partner is given medication to promote and optimize ovulation and the couple continues trying to get pregnant through sexual intercourse.  If the male partner’s count, motility or morphology is moderately low, then the couple may undergo interuterine insemination.  In this case, the ovaries are ovulating, but the sperm are injected closer to the ovaries to overcome the difficulty of too few, or too slow swimmers.  If the male partner’s count, motility or morphology is severely low, then the couple will most likely have to consider in vitro fertilization, when the egg is fertilized outside and then implanted into the woman’s body.

Many types of male infertility aren’t preventable, but knowing if a male partner’s sperm count or performance adds to difficulty getting pregnant will help a couple to make informed choices in their quest for parenthood.

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