Male Infertility Treatment

Male infertility treatment is the use of a medical, surgical or other procedures to enable a man to father a child. The type of treatment depends on the cause of the infertility. If the underlying problem is not known, a doctor will use the procedure that has been shown to have the best results in those cases.

Who is a candidate for male infertility treatment?

Generally, any male capable of producing sperm is a candidate for some form of male infertility treatment. In some cases, no sperm will be visible in a man’s semen, but a procedure like artificial insemination will still be tried.

Procedures used in male infertility treatment?

Treatment for male infertility depends upon the underlying cause. The condition may be treated with surgical, medical or assisted reproductive technologies (ART).

Medical procedures for male infertility

  • Hormone imbalances that result in male infertility can be treated with hormone replacement therapy or medications that attempt to restore the levels of hormones in the body.
  • Erectile dysfunction, which makes a man unable to achieve or maintain an erection long enough to have sex, can be treated with several prescription drugs.
  • Antisperm antibodies is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the sperm. This can be treated with three to six months of steroids.
  • Poor quality semen can reduce a man’s fertility. In this case, sperm may be washed and increased in concentration before being used for intrauterine insemination.

Surgical procedures for male infertility

  • Surgery to repair or correct problems can be used when the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles are blocked. The blockage may be present at birth or caused by injury or surgery. Surgery can also be done to reverse a vasectomy, a procedure done in men as a form of permanent birth control.
  • Sperm retrieval is used along with intrauterine insemination or assisted reproduction technology. The sperm may be taken directly from the testicle, usually done during a testicular biopsy. Sperm can also be collected with a very small needle from the epididymis or vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles.
  • Intrauterine insemination, also known as artificial insemination, is a procedure that involves inserting sperm collected from a man into a woman’s uterus. The woman may also be treated with drugs that stimulate the release of eggs from her ovaries (ovulation).

Assisted reproductive technology for male infertility

Assisted reproductive technology consists of fertility treatments in which both the sperm and eggs are combined outside of the body. The most common and effective type is in vitro fertilization. This procedure is done in the laboratory. A woman’s eggs, which have been removed surgically from the body, are combined with the sperm. The combined egg and sperm (embryo) is then placed in the woman’s uterus or donated to another woman.

What are the risks of male infertility treatment?

Medical: Drugs used to treat male infertility can cause complications. For example, long-term uses of steroids for antisperm antibodies can cause weight gain, lower a person's resistance to infections and other side effects. Medications to treat erectile dysfunction can cause headaches, a flushed face and other side effects.

Surgical: All surgeries involve some risk of bleeding or infection. A vasectomy reversal may also cause ongoing pain in the testicle in a small number of men. Sperm retrieval has a risk of bleeding and infection. Intrauterine insemination may cause infection or a small amount of vaginal bleeding in the woman.

Assisted reproduction technology: One of the main risks of in vitro fertilization is multiple births, in which sperm fertilize more than one egg.

Benefits of each infertility treatment

Medical treatments: results

Drugs for male infertility can be used to treat the underlying cause without the need for more invasive procedures. Some, like ones used to treat erectile dysfunction, may have minimal side effects. While figures may vary depending on the type of medication administered, some studies have shown that fertility drugs can produce a 20 to 25 percent pregnancy rate and boost a male's sperm count.

Surgical treatments: results

  • Vasectomy reversal works well for men who have previously had a vasectomy. Depending on the type of vasectomy reversal, pregnancy rates range from 20 to 70 percent, with sperm presenting in semen 58 to 90 percent of the time.
  • Sperm retrieval can be useful for men who have a blockage of the tubes that carry the sperm, as is the case with injury or a prior vasectomy that cannot be reversed. This is used along with intrauterine insemination or assisted reproductive technology, so its success depends in part on those techniques.
  • Intrauterine insemination is useful in cases where men have a low sperm count or motility (movement), or for men with unexplained infertility. Used alone, this procedure results in pregnancy in about 4 percent of cases. When women are given drugs to increase the number of eggs released from their ovaries, the success rate can be as high as 17 percent.

Assisted reproductive technologies: results

ART provides couples with a way to conceive a child when other treatment options are not possible or successful. The outcome depends upon many factors, including the age of the woman having the treatment, the underlying cause for the infertility of the couple and the clinic doing the procedure.

The age of the woman is the most important. According to the Center’s for Disease Control, the average percentage of assisted reproductive technology procedures that led to a live birth ranged from 40 percent in women younger than 35 years of age to one percent in women 44 years or older.

What is the cost of male infertility treatment?

Many treatments are available for male infertility, so the cost depends upon the underlying cause and the chosen method. The cost can include just the medication, as with erectile dysfunction drugs, which are taken only as needed. It can also include the cost of sperm extraction and and in vitro fertilization or assisted reproductive technologies, which can be as high as $10,000 to $15,000 just for one cycle of the procedure in the woman.

Is male infertility treatment covered by insurance?

Insurance coverage for male infertility treatment varies widely, and is usually based on the method required for your individual treatment. Insurance coverage may also vary for the treatment of women with in vitro fertilization or assisted reproductive technologies.

Updated August 2014

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