There’s a common misconception that infertility is, by and large, a female problem. While it’s true that a wide variety of factors can influence a woman’s ability to conceive, male-factor infertility is a major factor in up to 40% of infertility cases.
When a sperm defect is either the main cause or a contributing cause of a couple’s fertility issues, using a more direct fertilization method known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can significantly improve your chances of conceiving a healthy embryo via in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Here at California Center for Reproductive Health, we do testing for the potential contribution of male factor to a couple’s infertility right from the start. We’ve helped many couples in the Los Angeles area with male-factor infertility conceive successfully using IVF with ICSI — and here’s how it works.
Although it can sometimes be difficult to discern whether male-factor infertility is the sole cause or one of many contributing causes of a couple’s inability to conceive, it’s estimated that sperm defects are directly responsible for about 25% of all couples’ infertility.
Male-factor infertility caused by a sperm defect usually means sperm can’t get to the egg at all, or it can get to the egg, but can’t fertilize it.
The best way to analyze sperm is with a comprehensive semen analysis, which evaluates sperm concentration, sperm motility, sperm morphology (shape), and ejaculate volume. Other important parameters include pH and the presence or absence of agglutination (clumping).
Although a diagnosis of low sperm count or poor sperm motility is a general indication of male-factor infertility, the amount of sperm you have or how fast they swim aren’t the most important things. What matters most is whether or not your sperm can actually fertilize your partner’s eggs.
ICSI, which is used in almost half of all IVF treatments, is the most successful treatment approach for addressing most cases of male-factor infertility.
During conventional IVF, your partner’s eggs are surgically removed and placed in a dish with your sperm sample. As long as the sample contains a large number of active, normal sperm, chances are fairly high that one of the strongest sperms in the sample will make its way into the egg to fertilize it.
When the amount of suitable sperm is limited, however, conventional IVF isn’t a good option. Instead, IVF is carried out with ICSI, a method of direct egg fertilization that drastically increases the odds of creating a viable embryo.
During IVF with ICSI, we use a specialized micromanipulation tool and an inverted microscope to select and pick up individual sperm in an ultra-fine ICSI needle. Then, after carefully advancing the needle through the egg’s outer shell and membrane, we inject the sperm into the inner part of the egg.
ICSI results in normal fertilization approximately 75-85% of the time. As with conventional IVF, the fertilized egg is monitored for quality for two to five days before it’s transferred to the woman’s uterus, in the hopes that it will continue to develop into a healthy embryo.
Although ICSI is mostly used to help a couple overcome male-factor infertility, it’s also an ideal solution for men who decide to start a family after undergoing an irreversible vasectomy.
ICSI can also be helpful for men who have a medical condition — such as a spinal cord injury or diabetes — that makes it very difficult or impossible to get an erection or ejaculate.
And ICSI can help improve the odds of conception for couples who’ve already undergone a standard IVF treatment without success. At California Center for Reproductive Health, our ICSI success rates — meaning the IVF with ICSI treatments that result in a live birth — consistently beat the national average.
To find out more about ICSI, call today or schedule an appointment online at one of our clinics in Encino, West Hollywood, Monica, or Valencia, California.