The crucial role of the sperm in Male Fertility
We hear that when there is a problem with a couple not being able to conceive after a few years of unprotected sex, both partners usually undergo fertility tests. If the male is found to be infertile, “bad sperm” is generally given as the reason. However, detailed explanations of this finding are not usually provided to the general public. We attempt to clarify a few facts here, to give a better understanding of the causes of male infertility and the treatments.
Male fertility primarily depends on healthy sperm. The quality of the sperm can be affected (and hence treated also) by lifestyle factors.
The health of the sperm is dependent on quantity, quality, structure and movement – in other words, volume, concentration, morphology (external structure) and motility (movement).
Quantity/volume: The more semen discharged in an ejaculate (single ejaculation) the more likely fertility will occur. Although millions of sperm are released in an ejaculation, very few reach the uterine tubes. Hence, it may hinder pregnancy if there is less sperm in the ejaculation.
Quality/concentration: This refers to the amount of sperm contained in the semen. If there is less sperm, the chances of fertility are reduced since there may not be enough to fertilise the egg. Even though just one sperm is required to fertilise a woman’s egg, sometimes it does not reach the egg. If the total concentration of sperm is lower than average, it is referred to as a “low sperm count” or oligozoospermia, if sperm are completely absent from the semen sample which may occur due to a number of reasons it is termed as azoospermia.
Structure/morphology: relates to the shape of a man’s sperm. Usually, they have oval heads, short necks and long tails, which work in coordination to set them in motion. Small structural defects in the head, neck or tail region can have an impact on the overall quality of the sperm thereby affecting its chances of successful fertilization of the egg.
Movement/motility: This is the ability of movement of the sperm. It must move or “swim” – through the female cervix, fallopian tubes (where the egg travels from the ovary) to the uterus. Usually, fertilisation of the egg is possible with movement of about 40% of the sperm in the ejaculate, but the more movement, the better. If the wriggling movement is slow or it does not move in the right direction, it is referred to as “poor motility”.
There are many causes for male infertility – many of which can be treated. Lifestyle factors are one of them. Others may include injuries, health problems, inherited disorder, dilated veins around the testicle that block the passage of sperm (Varicocele). Some medical issues are testicular disease or secondary hypogonadism (where the testicles are normal but do not function properly due a problem in the pituitary gland in the brain which controls the production of testosterone and sperm).
Conclusion: Hence, having tests conducted to clarify the reason for infertility is advisable. Also, if a couple is planning a pregnancy and want to know the health of the sperm, this can also be determined. We, at Andrology Center, offer semen analysis and sperm DFI (sperm DNA fragmentation index) tests with high class technology and accurate results. Based on these results, the best and most viable treatment can be advised by a Fertility Specialist.