In a previous post here, we talked about what happens when there is no sperm.
But what about when the sperm exists, but it is … problematic?
There are a number of reasons that sperm, even when present, would contribute to infertility.
– low sperm count (also known as oligospermia)
– poor sperm motility
– abnormally-shaped sperm
Unlike azoospermia where there is no sperm, a man with oligospermia is producing sperm but it’s not in an amount that’s sufficient for a woman to conceive. I also found out that:
– any numbers below 20million sperm per ml, is a case of low sperm count
– it can be caused by a number of factors including unhealthy lifestyle choices (including cigarettes, alcohol, poor diet, food containing pesticides or a high amount of soy), STIs, illness, saunas and hot tubs, tight underwear, stress and genetics
– it is frighteningly common
– it does not make him impotent
– the condition may be treatable.
Among the tips necessary for conception, if the sperm count is low, are:
– having sex at the right time, so that you can maximise the sperm
– incorporate lifestyle changes; the nicotine and the other crap have to go
– assisted reproductive technology; in IVF (in-vitro fertilisation), sperm collected from the man and eggs collected from the woman are mixed and placed in a special incubator till fertilisation occurs, after which they are implanted in the woman
– assisted reproductive technology; with ICSI (intra-cytospamic cell injection), the woman’s eggs can be removed from the ovaries and injected with a single sperm, before being implanted in the uterus at an appropriate time after they are fertilised. This is an option, where the sperm are too few for IVF to be viable.
It’s one thing for sperm not to reach its target, it’s another for it to reach in insufficient amounts. But it’s yet another for the sperm not to be able to swim. That’s what sperm motility, is – the ability to move plus the tail whip of the sperm. If it’s not getting there at the right speed, it might as well not be there at all – it’s not where it needs to be, to be effective.
Without getting too technical (partly because I don’t want to confuse you, and partly because I don’t want to confuse myself):
– about 25% of infertility cases have been attributed to poor motility of sperm
– sperm needs to move properly, to reach its target for conception to occur
– motility percent needs to be above 40%
– motility problems may be caused by the use of marijuana, tobacco, alcohol, or steroids (which may be found in testosterone supplements)
– excessive heat and/or stress, side effect of medication, as well as a poor diet will typically affect sperm motility
– poor motility does not make a man, impotent
– this will not automatically mean he is unable to father a child, but you need to check with a specialist
– IVF and ICSI may be helpful
The sperm might be moving in the right way, but it may be abnormally sized or shaped – invariably meaning fertility problems. Think ‘square peg in a round hole’ effect. This is known as sperm morphology.
I was pretty surprised to find out about this, but some men actually have sperm allergies; meaning their bodies produce antibodies, which damage their own sperm. At least 3% of men with fertility issues, have sperm allergies. No, it doesn’t mean he is impotent. So, IVF and ICSI could be a path to biological fatherhood, even for men in this category.
As with other causes, please do not self-diagnose. A medical diagnosis – which could include physical assessment, semen analysis, blood tests, testicular biopsy and ultrasounds – from a professional (meaning they attended Med School and passed the necessary exams) is nothing to be scared of. At least when you know for sure what a problem is, the path to the solution becomes clearer.
You can find other posts addressing some other causes of infertility, in the ‘Related Posts’ below.
PS: If you suffer or know someone who suffered any of the above, or you had your happy ending despite them, please feel free to leave a comment below.
All Rights Reserved, Chioma Nnani
DISCLAIMER: The afore-mentioned information is not intended to replace consultation with a physician or to diagnose or treat any condition. Please, see your doctor without delay if you have any symptoms that you are unsure of. Do not stop taking any prescribed medication or start any lifestyle changes without your own doctor’s supervision.