Sperm count tests, also known as a semen analysis, are an essential part of a fertility work-up for any couple facing infertility. Because women will often speak to their gynecologist first, semen analysis may not be suggested right away. When it does come up, usually at the request of a savvy gynecologist or at a fertility clinic, the man may be hesitant to go along with the sperm count testing.
It really is best to have a sperm count test done as soon as possible, before any treatments are started.
We often think of failure to conceive as a "woman's problem" (after all, all the exciting action takes place in her body). However, according to the American Association of Reproductive Medicine, as many as 40% of infertile couples involve male factor infertility.
Sometimes it's solely the man who is infertile, but a third of the time, both the woman and the man are diagnosed with infertility. So even if the woman already has a diagnosis of infertility, the man should also be checked. It could be both of them.
Sperm Count Analysis Saves Time
One big reason to go along with the test right away is that the earlier the test is completed, the sooner appropriate treatment can be started. If the focus remains on treating the woman's infertility issues, and the man's fertility issues are ignored, all the medications and cycles may be wasted.
In the case of Clomid, for example, there are limits on how many consecutive cycles are allowed. If a woman takes Clomid for the maximum allowed time period, still doesn't get pregnant, and only afterward it is discovered that there are male factor infertility issues, the couple will have lost not only the treatment time, but also the time needed to allow the body to rest and recover from the medication use.
Another factor to consider is age. Especially after age 35, a woman's fertility declines at a faster pace. Several months of inappropriate treatment may lead to a lower chance of success once the right treatment option is discovered.
Sperm Count Analysis Saves Money
If you're not so worried about losing time, consider the cost involved in fertility treatments. Insurance companies vary with regards to coverage, but a cycle or two of IUI can cost in the thousands of dollars. If IVF or ICSIS are what were really required, you will have thrown money away.
Not only will you have lost money on treatments that were not appropriate, you will have that much less money for further treatments. With the average cost of IVF between $8,000 and $15,000, every dollar counts.
Sperm Analysis May Save You Some Heartbreak
Perhaps even more important than lost time and lost money, getting the sperm count testing done early may save you some heartbreak.
Any couple coping with infertility knows how hard it is to go cycle to cycle, wondering if the treatments will work this time. Finding out after months of trying that the treatments had little chance for success will not only add to the sadness, but also just thinking about the wasted time and hope comes with its own ocean of anger and pain.
So, Should You Have the Test Done?
To answer the question, yes, a couple being evaluated for infertility should make sure that both the woman and the man are properly evaluated. For the man, that means a sperm count test, at the very least.
At the same time that the woman goes to see her gynecologist, the man really should seek out a urologist for an infertility work-up. (Unless a reproductive endocrinologist is treating both of them already.)
If the sperm count test comes out normal, you'll have eliminated a potential cause, and if there are problems, you can be sure to start appropriate treatment faster.
Just one last note to nervous husbands and boyfriends: If you're nervous of what your partner will think of you if the sperm count test is low, ask her and I'm sure she'll tell you that she will love you as much after poor results as she did before. I can't say, however, how happy she'll be with you if she goes through fruitless treatments because you refused a simple test early on.
Having trouble with performance anxiety? This article of tips may help:
Patient's Fact Sheet: Diagnostic Testing for Male Factor Infertility. American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Accessed May 29, 2008. http://asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/Testing_Male-Fact.pdf
A Basic Guide to Male Infertility: How to Find Out What's Wrong. American Urologic Association. Accessed May 29, 2008. http://www.auanet.org/content/guidelines-and-quality-care/clinical-guidelines/patient-guides/whatswrongpg.pdf
Medications for Inducing Ovulation: A Guide for Patients. American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Accessed February 3, 2008. http://asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/ovulation_drugs.pdf
The Costs of Infertility Treatment. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. Accessed February 3, 2008. http://www.resolve.org/family-building-options/insurance_coverage/the-costs-of-infertility-treatment.html