While infertility is often thought of as typically a female issue, about half of all infertility cases stem from male reproductive problems. Since sperm health is vital to conception, it is important to have your sperm evaluated if you are struggling with infertility. Fortunately, many causes of male infertility are treatable.
The three most important factors in sperm quality include:
- Concentration: This refers to the quantity or number of sperm in your ejaculate. When the concentration of sperm is low (referred to as oligozoospermia), the chance that the sperm will reach an egg in the woman’s fallopian tubes is greatly reduced. When there is a complete absence of sperm (“no sperm count”), this is known as azoospermia.
- Motility/Movement: Sperm must successfully swim through a woman’s cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes to meet up with, and hopefully fertilize, an egg. The numbers of sperm that move and how they move are both important factors. For instance, some sperm might move, but only in circles or in zigzags. Others might vibrate, but not make any forward progression. Poor sperm motility is also known as asthenozoospermia.
- Morphology/Shape: Healthy sperm have smooth, oval-shaped heads and long tails, which help to propel them as they swim. Sperm with abnormal morphology are less likely to reach, puncture, or enter the egg’s membrane. Having a large number of abnormally formed sperm are signs of a condition called teratozoospermia.
Age and Sperm Quality
Even though men do not have distinct biological clocks like women, a man’s age can affect his fertility. While men continue to produce sperm and can father children throughout their lifespan, there is a decrease in sperm number and quality, which includes an increase in chromosomal abnormalities.
Research has also shown a slight, but increased risk in neurodevelopmental disorders like autism with advanced paternal age (45 years or older), as well as rare genetic disorders like Crouzon and Apert syndrome.
Semen Analysis/Sperm Testing
Assessing male fertility is a simple process that requires complex evaluation. Through a semen analysis, we can assess whether there is a problem present by evaluating the following parameters:
Concentration – Greater than 15 million sperm per milliliter is considered normal.
Motility – If more than 32% of your sperm are moving, your motility is considered normal.
Morphology – Normal results are when 14% or more of the sperm have normal shaped heads, according to the Kruger morphology test. When sperm have a morphology below 9%, the risk of infertility increases by 2.9 times.
Additional assessments of sperm include the antisperm antibody test, sperm DNA fragmentation analysis, culture of semen for infections, binding studies, penetration assays, and several other methods to assess male fertility.
Sperm Quality Research
CCRM’s research team is continuously finding new ways to improve sperm quality for our patients. The following CCRM clinical studies are currently underway on sperm quality:
- GameteHealth: A natural antioxidant supplement taken prior to in vitro fertilization (IVF) to improve sperm health and pregnancy success rates.
You might also be interested in: Fertility Treatment for Male Factor Infertility and Sperm Freezing