Investigating a Potential Problem
Although couples are generally not advised to consider full infertility investigations until after an entire year of attempting to conceive has passed, certain medial conditions necessitate early attention.
The Causes of Infertility
The causes of infertility may be specifically related to either the male or the female partner, or reflect a combination of male and female causes concurrently. However, any investigation must include both partners together. Not only is it important because of the psychological need partners have for each other during treatment, but for more practical purpose as well, since discovering a problem in one partner does not necessarily rule out the possibility of a problem in the other partner.
Similarly, men who are aware that they are suffering from a particular disorder or are anxious about their reproductive healthy should investigate their condition early on. For example, if a man receives an injury to his testicles, such as during a sporting accident, he may be anxious that their function has been impaired. Diseases that affect the male reproductive organs such as prostatitis (infection of the prostate gland) or mumps (which, if contracted in adulthood may cause inflammation of the testicles and result in infertility) also warrant early investigation.
For a male, investigations should begin with a semen analysis through which the doctor can determine exactly if and why sperm readings are abnormal. Results might show the sperm count to be low, which means that fewer than an average number of sperm are being produced, or that the sperm are dead or deformed. The sample might be completely void of sperm, or show that the motility (movement) of the sperm is weaker than normal and therefore cannot sustain it through the long journey into the females; reproductive tract. The seminal fluid itself also has to be healthy. If the viscosity (thickness) of the semen is too high, then this will hinder sperm movement.
Over-heated testicles, as a result of wearing underpants, taking hot tub baths, or even prolonged fever, can affect sperm production. Infections such as epididymitis, sexually transmitted diseases, or blockage of the vas deferens (sperm duct) also affect sperm production. Furthermore, a man who is overweight, stressed, drinks in excess, smokes heavily or uses narcotics such as marijuana, is likely to have problems with sperm production. Many medications, such those used for high blood pressure, peptic ulcers and chemotherapy have been linked with sperm malfunction, as have some toxins such as pesticides and lead. There are also a number of other factors which affect male fertility including varicose veins of the testicles, chromosomal abnormalities, and a congenital absence of the vas deferens. Finally, in some rare cases, a male body produces antibodies to destroy its own sperm.
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