Male factor infertility occurs when one or more semen parameters are abnormal according to WHO criteria. Issues may occur with sperm concentration, movement (motility), or shape (morphology) all of which affect sperm quality.
These changes in sperm characteristics are defined as:
- Low sperm concentration called oligospermia or oligozoospermia ( less than 15 million sperm/milliliter of seminal ejacuate)
- Low motility called asthenospermia or asthenozoospermia (less than 40% motility)
- Abnormal shape morphology called teratospermia or teratozoospermia (less than 4% normal shapes or forms) (WHO 2010).
Sometimes these abnormal semen parameters occur alone and sometimes together as oligoasthenoteratozoospermia. Low sperm count is the most common anomaly. You can learn more about semen analysis by clicking here.
Overall, abnormalities in sperm concentration, movement, or shape can be due to many factors including age, genetic mutations or other DNA abnormalities, hormone imbalance, medication, environmental/dietary factors, or infection.
Increased oxidative stress or reactive oxygen species (ROS) are bad and damage sperm and subsequently can reduce sperm count,motility, and morphology. Lipid peroxidation (changes in sperm components) and sperm DNA damage can affect fertilization and pregnancy outcomes. In addition to changes in exposures and lifestyle factors, medication has been shown in some cases of low sperm count, motility, and/or morphology to improve fertilization and possibly pregnancy outcomes.
Antioxidants such as L-carnitine and lycopene may be beneficial for men with oligozoospermia if low sperm concentration is the result of high amounts of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can be measured by specialized tests examining DNA damage such as TUNEL. Ultimately this is important because sperm DNA integrity is important beginning early in the developing embryo and has been associated with recurrent implantation failure and miscarriage.
For a personalized consultation to identify risk factors for sperm quality issues and possible treatment plans including medication, please contact us to schedule a visit.