Your GP Can Help
Although there are a number of ‘at home’ sperm tests available, go and see your GP first. It's a good idea for both you and your partner to get advice, as fertility problems can affect men and women, and often it's a combination of both. It's important to understand the exact issue before deciding on next steps. One of the tests a GP can arrange is a semen analysis, which will check the quality and quantity of the sperm. The results are usually available within a week. If the results are not normal, the test should be repeated to ensure it was accurate. This will normally be performed after three months. Your GP can refer you to a specialist in male infertility at your local hospital or fertility clinic if any problems are found. If you want to delve deeper, it’s worth knowing the test your GP offers is quite basic, and results are often given without much explanation. A test done via a private clinic will go into more detail about the quality of your semen, as it’s not just sperm count, motility and morphology that matters.
It Takes Time
It’s hard when you are trying month after month for a baby, and it isn’t happening. In fact, it takes an average of eight to 12 months to conceive and for most people there is more an impatience than an inability to conceive. If, however, you have not managed to conceive after one year of trying for a baby, speak to your GP. There are so many myths around sex when trying for a baby, and the most common questions I’m asked are about how often to have it and whether it’s better to save the sperm up. Firstly, you should be having sex as much as possible, at least three times a week. The idea of saving sperm is a myth as it will die after a few days and research shows that the more fresh sperm there is, the better the quality.
There Could Be An Underlying Condition
There are a number of potential causes for male infertility, but the most common ones may include:
- Abnormal sperm production or function due to undescended testicles, genetic defects, health problems such as diabetes, or infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, mumps or HIV. Enlarged veins in the testes also can affect the quality of sperm.
- Problems with the delivery of sperm due to sexual problems, such as premature ejaculation; certain genetic diseases, e.g. cystic fibrosis; structural problems, e.g. a blockage in the testicle; or damage or injury to the reproductive organs.
- Overexposure to certain environmental factors such as pesticides, other chemicals and radiation. Cigarette smoking, alcohol, marijuana, anabolic steroids, and taking medications to treat bacterial infections, high blood pressure and depression can affect fertility. Frequent exposure to heat, such as in saunas or hot tubs, can raise body temperature and may affect sperm production.
- Damage related to cancer and its treatment including radiation or chemotherapy. Treatment for cancer can impair sperm production, sometimes severely.
Know How To Deal With The Emotions
Sperm tests in themselves are scary territory for men. Many men are initially unclear about who to consult when it comes to their fertility. Women know to go and see a gynaecologist, but men are not so sure who to approach as the subject of fertility is still taboo. This makes receiving bad test results from a sperm test all the more devastating. Men feel disheartened and at a loss as to how to proceed. I often see men bottling up these emotions, thinking they should be the ones to remain strong and supportive. Other times, I see men feeling like they’ve failed their partners altogether, sometimes even breaking up as a result of feelings about their own state of inadequacy. It’s important to speak up. Bottling up emotions will not only harm your mental state but can also create a rift between you and your partner. Couples often feel they should give up at this stage because there’s no point having sex if it won’t ‘work’. It might seem hopeless but, even in the face of upsetting results, couples do go on to conceive.