What is quality and quantity of sperm?

Sometimes called “male factor infertility,” low quality and/or quantity of sperm can make contributing to a pregnancy difficult or even impossible. There are several factors that go into the overall measure of sperm quality, including morphology (overall shape of individual sperm cells), motility (adequate forward movement), the volume of semen, and the concentration of sperm in semen. Irregular morphology can contribute to miscarriage, low motility can make achieving pregnancy through intercourse or IUI difficult or even impossible, and low volume and/or concentration can impact how long it takes to get a partner pregnant.

What impacts the quality and quantity of sperm?

Like many aspects of reproductive health, the production of sperm is a complex process that requires typical functioning of the testicles (testes) and the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which are organs in your brain that produce hormones that trigger sperm production. Once sperm are produced in the testicles, delicate tubes transport them until they mix with semen and are ejaculated. Issues with any of these systems can affect sperm production. Also, there can be problems of abnormal sperm shape (morphology), movement (motility), or function. Sometimes, providers simply aren’t able to determine the specific cause of sperm issues, such as low volume.

Factors such as stress, gender dysphoria, hormone levels, depression, and smoking can impede sperm production as well.

What can be done to assure a pregnancy with low sperm quality or quantity?

The great news is that Assisted Reproductive Technology can provide solutions to many, if not all, of the most common challenges with sperm production and quality.

For low volume, we can collect several samples over a period of time and utilize the sperm cells for IUI or IVF treatments. In some cases, we can utilize a process called ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), which can isolate a single healthy sperm cell and use it to fertilize a single egg cell. The use of antioxidants is one therapy that has shown to be effective in some people with borderline morphology, although typically 3-6 months of therapy is needed to show just a small improvement in morphology.

Reach out to us at any time if you have questions about your specific case.