With regards to fertility issues, it is oftentimes perceived as a woman’s problem. But when couples come in at the doctor’s clinic after unsuccessful attempts at getting pregnant, doctors usually order tests for both husband and wife. When my close friend still did not get pregnant after more than a year of trying, her husband refused even the most basic test because he felt that it can affect his manhood. But after another long year of trying and after succeeding consultations with a specialist, he obliged. Although the result was not very promising, my friend was hopeful because by agreeing to the test, she felt that they were now more open to treatment options designed to increase their chances of conception.

Urologists and other health care providers have varied approaches when ruling out male infertility, but the most common test ordered is a sperm and semen analysis. For this test, you will be asked to collect sperm into a specimen cup or jar, which will be sent to the laboratory for analysis. An expert assesses a man’s specimen and specifically looks for the number of sperm present as well as abnormalities related to the sperm’s shape and motility. A doctor usually orders this test twice to confirm the initial result because a person’s sperm count may vary with each collection.

A count of more than 20 million sperm cells per milliliter of semen is considered normal. Sperm counts that are below this level are considered low, which may already make conception more difficult. However, it’s important to understand that your sperm count alone is not the sole determinant whether you can father children. In fact, individuals with low sperm counts can still manage to get their partners pregnant for as long as they have healthy shaped and motile sperm.

In many instances, a low sperm count is usually caused by an incomplete or improper collection of specimen. It is then important to make sure that you collect all of your semen into a collection cup after ejaculation. If you find this difficult, you may ask your doctor for a special collection condom. If you have recently recovered from an illness or if you are under extreme stress, it may be best to wait at least three months before you schedule the test. To get a reliable and more accurate result, you also need to abstain from sex or from ejaculating for at least 48 hours prior to the test.

Other factors that can affect an individual’s sperm count include physical damage to the testicles, or exposure to radiation and drugs such as Azathioprine or Cimetidine. Hormonal problems particularly a higher level of estrogen may also lead to low sperm counts. There are also cases when no semen or sperm is present in a specimen. This condition is called azoospermia, and while it may sound alarming, the problem may be addressed through surgery because it is often caused by an obstruction.

Problems related to fertility can definitely stress couples and it may even strain relationships. But with early diagnosis and treatment, the chances of conception may be higher. Choose a health care provider that you can trust so that you can work together in making pregnancy possible.