If a couple are unlucky enough to be referred for fertility testing - and that's about 1 in 6 of couples - there tends to be a fairly relaxed approach to male fertility testing. After all, with IVF or ICSI procedures, it only needs one sperm to fertilise the egg. But if the sperm is damaged, then fertilisation may not occur.
It's estimated that at least 30% of fertility difficulties lie with the man alone and yet male fertility testing is still relatively basic. Normally male fertility testing looks at 3 factors - volume, motility and morphology - there needs to be enough sperm, that are moving in the right direction and are well formed.
And the good news is that sperm quality can be improved by lifestyle factors: a healthy diet which is low in sugar and processed foods, vitamin supplements, regular sex, keeping the genitals cool and avoiding alcohol, smoking and any other toxic substances.
But can more be done to test for sperm quality? Yes. The SpermComet test is a more sensitive test designed to measure DNA damage in individual sperm.
There are a couple of instances in which a more in-depth testing of male fertility factors can be helpful:
When undertaking assisted reproductive techniques it can be useful to know about the quality of sperm in order to select the technique which has the best chance of success. For example, if a test shows moderate sperm DNA damage, IVF may to the way to go, whereas a test result with higher DNA damage may indicate that going directly to ICSI will offer the best chance of a pregnancy.
Sadly miscarriage is something that about 1 in 4 women will experience, and where there is recurrent miscarriage a sperm DNA test may provide useful information. There can be a number of reasons for recurrent miscarriage, one of which is sperm DNA quality. And according to Lewis Fertility Testing who designed the sperm comet test, "Recurrent miscarriage following IVF or ICSI can be caused by sperm DNA damage."
So, if you've experienced recurrent miscarrige, or are about to embark on assisted reproductive techniques, or if time is running out and you want as much useful information about your fertility as you can gather, then a SpermComet test might be useful.
Testing is available in Edinburgh and if you'd like to know more, contact Doris Wylie on 07724 197627.
And for more general information on fertility click here and discover how reproductive reflexology can help support your fertility journey.