First of all we need to ask what is a microbiome?
A microbiome is a collection of all the tiny organisms (e.g., bacteria and viruses) that live in or on our bodies. You’ve may well have heard of the gut microbiome, but did you know that your genital tract has a microbiome too? It’s important to keep your genital tract microbiome healthy as an unhealthy microbiome could negatively impact your fertility.
But why is the male microbiome important when it comes to fertility?
If the genital tract microbiome is unbalanced (e.g., a bacterial infection) it can have negative consequences for fertility. This could include:
- Passing an infection onto your partner and causing issues with implantation or pregnancy complications.
- Reducing the quality and quantity of sperm you produce, lowering the chance of successful pregnancy.
- Causing DNA damage or oxidative stress in your sperm which could increase the risk of early miscarriage and reduce the chances of success with IVF treatment.
For the best chance of conceiving a healthy pregnancy, it is there important for both the male and female genital microbiomes to be healthy, balanced and free from infection.
Can you test the male microbiome and what does the test show?
There are many ways an infection can arise in the genital tract, many of which have nothing to do with sexually transmitted infections (e.g., chlamydia or gonorrhoea). However, no matter how the infection began, it’s important to identify and treat it as soon as possible.
The male microbiome test examines a semen sample to look for a comprehensive list of microorganisms that could negatively impact fertility. If any infections are found, we will refer you to a Urologist who will be able to make your microbiome healthy again. We would also recommend testing your partner’s microbiome to ensure this is healthy and free from infection too.
When should you have a male microbiome test?
Not all infections have obvious symptoms so it’s often not possible to know you have an unhealthy microbiome without performing a test. Male microbiome testing may be particularly useful in the following scenarios:
- A semen analysis finds you have a high number of ‘non-sperm’ cells in your sample, as this could suggest that you have an infection.
- A standard semen culture test doesn’t find an infection, but you have clinical signs of infection e.g., pain following sex or during urination, abnormal discharge, or an unpleasant smell.
- Your partner suffers from recurrent genital tract infections.
- You have sperm DNA fragmentation/ oxidative stress that is thought to be caused by infection.
- You have had recurrent, unexplained, implantation failure.
- You have had unsuccessful IVF cycles without a known cause.
Please give us a call to discuss male microbiome testing and learn whether it could be useful for you.