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IVF-Life and the Importance of Diagnosing the Male Factor

Contrary to popular belief, infertility and sterility diagnoses associated with the male are the cause of a large number of fertility treatments indicated by specialists in reproductive medicine. In fact, according to the latest National Activity Registry of the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF), 19.9% of in vitro fertilisation treatments with the patient’s own oocytes were carried out due to the male factor and 21.5% were linked to mixed causes, i.e., both male and female.

At IVF-Life, as a clinic that approaches reproductive medicine in a global manner, we always advocate thoroughly studying all aspects that may be preventing the achievement of pregnancy. In this way, we can provide our patients with a rigorous and precise diagnosis that is key to choosing the treatment course that will ensure success. A clear example of this philosophy is the exhaustive analysis that our professionals carry out in order to identify the presence of the male factor, which we will detail throughout this article.

First Steps in Analysing Men’s Reproductive Health

When a patient comes to us in order to become a father, our medical team starts by getting to know the patient’s background and medical history, which allows us to find out about previous pathologies or relevant conditions. In addition, the specialists will request a blood test and, if the case requires it, a physical examination. It is also recommended to analyse the karyotype of both partners of the couple, or in other words, to determine the set of chromosomes that each one has, thus being able to detect possible alterations in their number or structure.

On the other hand, if you are undergoing assisted reproduction treatment or if you have already sought reproductive counselling, a sperm analysis test may already be familiar to you. This is a test performed in our assisted reproduction laboratory consisting of assessing the quality of a semen sample and for this, it is necessary to analyse various parameters.

In a basic sperm analysis test, at the macroscopic level – that is, by observing the sample – laboratory professionals obtain information on the volume, pH, colour and general appearance of the ejaculate. Subsequently, a microscopic analysis establishes the number of spermatozoa in the sample (concentration), what they are like and how they move (morphology and motility). Similarly, what is known as vitality is evaluated, which, as its name suggests, refers to the number of live spermatozoa in the sample.

Finally, it should be noted that the semen analysis test can also be used to study the presence of, for example, leukocytes or red blood cells.

The results obtained in a spermiogram can reveal different pathologies, such as azoospermia (absence of sperm cells) or oligospermia (low sperm cell count).

Advanced Semen Analysis Test: a Powerful Way to Obtain Additional Information on the Male Factor

Sometimes, when experts need to obtain more information about the quality of the male’s sperm, it is decided that the analysis be broadened by means of what we at IVF-Life call an advanced semen analysis test, which combines a series of tests – explained below – that provide in-depth knowledge of sperm functionality.

Sperm DNA Fragmentation Testing

The importance of this test lies in its ability to detect breaks in sperm DNA, which may explain repeated miscarriages (recurrent pregnancy loss), failed cycles or cases of infertility of unknown origin. Sperm DNA fragmentation analysis uses flow cytometry to assess the stability of sperm chromatin, thus providing an estimate of the percentage of spermatozoa with fragmented DNA.

Apoptosis Assay by Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) using Annexin V

For those who are not familiar with the term, apoptosis refers to a kind of “programmed” cell death suffered, in this case, by spermatozoa that are not viable due to defects in their structure or functionality. When a sample is characterised by high levels of apoptotic spermatozoa, male fertility is compromised, making the use of sperm selection techniques useful. 

Y Chromosome Microdeletion Test

Microdeletions of the Y chromosome are small losses of genetic material that occur in this chromosome and which, if appearing in the AZF factor region, are related to a possible diagnosis of azoospermia or oligozoospermia. The test that we perform at IVF-Life analyses the AZFa, AZFb, AZFc and AZFd regions, facilitating the identification of the aforementioned conditions.

DNA Ploidy Testing

This test is performed in order to identify spermatogenic failure by analysing the ploidy of the sperm cells present in a sample, i.e., the number of complete sets of chromosomes they contain. The existence of immature germ cells in an ejaculate helps to diagnose severe male infertility and, consequently, to determine the future of treatment.

Oxidative Stress Analysis (ROS) Test

Oxidative stress is the condition that occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the antioxidants needed to combat them. The test that we carry out at IVF-Life measures the amount of ROS in the ejaculate, as, if it causes oxidative stress, it can cause damage to the spermatozoa. Being aware of this parameter allows specialists to alleviate the situation, normally by means of diet and lifestyle modifications. 

The Male Factor: the “Overlooked One” in Society, But a Crucial Aspect for IVF-Life

For more than a decade we have established, through patient feedback and our high success rates, that treating each case uniquely and offering tailor-made reproductive solutions for each individual is crucial to achieving pregnancy.

As we have seen, the diagnosis of the male factor goes far beyond a semen analysis and its correct identification is only possible if it is approached from a global and personalised perspective. At IVF-Life we have the necessary techniques to define it and the ideal professionals to address it.

If you want to start your journey towards parenthood, do not hesitate to contact us, our team of experts in reproductive medicine has a treatment designed just for you.