The sperm of many men with spinal cord injuries indeed lose much, if not all, of their ability to make babies, as a man’s chances of becoming a father drop to about 10%.
Causes of male fertility drop with spinal cord injury
Male infertility with a spinal cord injury (SCI) may have several causes. A paraplegic may not be able to keep an erection long enough for sexual activity, or there is a chance of retrograde ejaculation.
Inflammation or infection in men with a spinal cord injury can also hinder sperm production. Some SCI patients may have trouble producing sperm if nerve signals to their testicles are reduced or cut off.
The reality, however, is that many men with an SCI can father children with methods like in vitro fertilization, even if their partners are normal.
It has been proven that a spinal cord injury does not diminish the genetic quality of semen.
Sperm Retrieval Method for Spinal Cord Injured men
Due to their inability to ejaculate, many men with spinal cord injuries need professional medical care to retrieve sperm for reproduction.
In some methods for the collection of sperm, some techniques facilitate ejaculation, while others skip it altogether and instead collect sperm surgically.
Non-Surgical Sperm Retrieval Methods
Options that are used to obtain sperm in a man with a spinal cord injury have been utilized.
If a person can get an erection and has enough upper body strength and dexterity, they can get sperm samples from masturbation. They may choose to accomplish this by hand or with the aid of a tool like a vibrator.
Electroejaculation is a medical treatment in which the prostate and seminal vesicles are stimulated electrically to trigger ejaculatory flow. Anesthesia is usually used and is done with expertise.
Penile Vibratory stimulation of the penis
Also known as penile vibratory stimulation (PVS), it is a non-invasive method of inducing ejaculation. PVS can be performed at a medical facility or home with the aid of a caregiver or helper.
Electroejaculation of the penile is more often successful, but vibratory stimulation of the penis makes better sperm than electroejaculation.
If your injury is above the T-6 vertebra, you risk complications like high blood pressure or autonomic dysreflexia from either of these treatments.
Surgical Sperm Extraction
When everything else fails, sperm retrieval surgery is the way to go.
Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE)
A surgical sperm retrieval known as testicular sperm extraction (TESE) biopsy is used for sperm extraction. It is usually performed with the patient under local anesthesia and necessitates high specialization.
Some problems that could happen with surgical sperm collection include infection, bleeding, and damage to the tissues around the area. But the TESE method has a high success rate for recovering usable sperm, but it is still carefully monitored to ensure patient safety.
MicroTESE is a safer way for paralyzed men to get their sperm retrieved because less testicular tissue needs to be taken out. In this treatment, the sperm is frozen to be used in future cycles of in vitro fertilization or intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
Microsurgical Epididymis Sperm Aspiration (MESA)
During the MESA procedure, a scrotal cut is performed to expose the testis and epididymis. A single epididymal tubule is opened using an operating microscope to enable sperm collection.
Using MESA, surgeons can collect a sizable quantity of sperm for freezing and use in future procedures.
Pregnancy with ejaculated sperm
The collected sperm is suitable for conception right away. Another method, intrauterine insemination (IUI), involves cleansing the semen and inserting the donor sperm directly into the woman’s uterus.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a type of IVF in which a single sperm is injected into an egg to make it fertile.
During the ICSI method, an egg is taken from the woman’s ovary and placed in a special instrument. The next step is to use a very fine needle to insert a single sperm into the egg. After a few days in the lab, the fertilized egg (now an embryo) is transferred to the woman’s uterus.
The success rate of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) might be anywhere from 50% to 80%, depending on the couple’s situation.
A high-quality, sufficient sperm supply is essential for these procedures. It is always advisable to consult a doctor on the healthiest method of sperm collection.
Success Stories of Sperm Retrieval Methods
Rodriguez and his wife, Maria Angelica, became parents to twins even when they were told that they wouldn’t be able to have biological children because Rodriguez had abnormally low sperm motility after a spinal cord injury. All of this is the result of testicular sperm aspiration.
Abnormal sperm is the final contributing reason for male infertility after a spinal cord injury. Spinal cord-injured males have normal semen counts but reduced motility and viability. But the methods mentioned above are the hope of ray, who wants to father children.
Before You Go
Spinal cord injuries can cause a lot of problems. Two of them are infertility and trouble getting an erection. But for many men with spinal cord injuries, erectile dysfunction can be treated with medications. Read my article here about how Viagra can help men with spinal cord injuries.