January 2023

Limits to Male Fertility Tests

Male fertility is important to test and assess when a couple is having fertility issues. The tests for male fertility are quite standard. Testing is the beginning of the journey for determining the solution to fertility issues for a couple.


What impacts male fertility?

About 50 million couples around the world experience infertility, and male infertility accounts for 20 to 30 percent of the total cases. Infertility is something many couples struggle with, and if you are experiencing infertility, it is important to remember you are not alone in this situation. 

There are many factors that can go into male infertility. One specific cause can be difficult to determine for a patient. Researchers have detailed that dietary components can impact fertility. Nutrition and genetic variations are important things to consider when testing male fertility. Researchers recommend that men experiencing infertility meet with a registered dietician to ensure they are getting the essential nutrients they need. Men may be more susceptible to certain deficiencies due to genetics. Proper nutrition is important to prevent any deficiency in a patient's diet. After fertility testing, men may be recommended to see a registered dietician to see how their diet can be improved in hopes this will also help their fertility. [1]


Male Fertility Tests

How is male fertility tested?

Semen analysis is the initial test for male fertility. Semen testing began in the 1600s, and despite the history surrounding this type of testing, semen testing is still imperfect. Semen analysis is the only diagnostic test that all men undergoing fertility evaluation are recommended to get. From semen analysis, it is difficult to determine the cause of infertility. Semen analysis can only show how healthy the sperm is and sperm count; it can’t determine why there is a low sperm count or any other issue with sperm. 

Genetic testing is helpful for infertile men. Genetic testing can offer more possible explanations for infertility in comparison to semen analysis. Genetic testing goes beyond determining the health and fertility of semen, and it looks into deeper meaning as to why a patient is experiencing fertility issues. Currently, home tests are being developed to be more effective as well so that semen testing can be more accessible. [2]


What are the limits to testing male fertility?

Male fertility testing is not perfect, and there are limits to what these tests can reveal. Some of the limits or deficiencies in these tests include:

  • It is difficult to predict male fertility potential based on various sperm variables. Conception is so complex it is nearly impossible to explain the deficiencies in sperm.
  • The prediction of fertility is different for natural conception than IVF, and testing should account for this.
  • Computer-assisted semen analysis is the best way to evaluate semen, but this is labor-intensive and laboratory-based. It can be more expensive and less accessible.
  • Semen analysis should not be the only test used for an infertility diagnosis. It should only be used as a guideline for further tests and treatments.
  • Sperm quality tests should more accurately predict the success of IVF and identify some causes of sperm quality results.


There is still progress to be made within the field of sperm analysis and quality testing. There is much to learn about how to make these tests better and more informative. We have come far with male fertility tests, but there are always improvements to be made. [3]



[1] Vanderhout SM, Rastegar Panah M, Garcia-Bailo B, Grace-Farfaglia P, Samsel K, Dockray J, Jarvi K, El-Sohemy A. Nutrition, genetic variation and male fertility. Transl Androl Urol. 2021 Mar;10(3):1410-1431. doi: 10.21037/tau-20-592. PMID: 33850777; PMCID: PMC8039611.
[2] ​​Sigman M. Introduction: Male fertility testing: the past, present, and future. Fertil Steril. 2019 May;111(5):833-834. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2019.03.008. Epub 2019 Apr 5. PMID: 30955843.
[3] Oehninger S, Ombelet W. Limits of current male fertility testing. Fertil Steril. 2019 May;111(5):835-841. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2019.03.005. Epub 2019 Apr 8. PMID: 30975387.