When to Test His Fertility
From the author of The Fertility Guide: A Couples Handbook for When You Want to Have a Baby
What Other Sperm Tests Are Available?
- Sperm penetration assay: A test in which sperm are incubated with specially prepared hamster eggs (actual fertilization cannot occur). The ability of the sperm to bind to the eggs and penetrate them is measured. The results of this test correlate moderately well with the ability to penetrate a human egg: If there is good penetration in this assay, there is a very good chance the sperm are capable of penetrating a human egg.
Sperm antibody tests: These tests check for the production of antibodies by either the male or female. Antibodies are substances that can immobilize or even kill the sperm before the sperm can reach the egg. In order to detect antibodies, a tube of blood is drawn from the woman and incubated with a sperm sample in the laboratory and examined microscopically.
- Mannose test, acrosome reaction test: Before a sperm can attach to and fertilize an egg, it must undergo a process known as capacitation. Capacitation involves changes in the membrane of the head of the sperm that are necessary to allow attachment to, and penetration of, the egg. These tests measure the ability of the sperm to undergo capacitation and allow identification of sperm that may not be able to fertilize an egg in spite of an otherwise normal semen analysis. These tests can be particularly useful in cases of unexplained infertility or prior to an ART procedure. These are also known as sperm function tests (SFTs).
Sperm washing or Percoll gradient: Techniques used to isolate the healthiest and most motile sperm. A semen sample is subjected to one of these procedures prior to, for example, inseminations.
- Testicular biopsy: A technique in which a small piece of the testicle(s) is surgically removed and microscopically evaluated. The value of this procedure in terms of suggesting ways to improve the sperm count is questionable at best. With the availability of microinsemination techniques such as ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), a testicular biopsy may be worthwhile in that if it demonstrates the presence of even a few very immature sperm, these can now be used to achieve fertilization and pregnancies.
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