Poor Sperm Quality: || Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

When it comes to making a baby, the quality of sperm is everything.

Sperm quality is determined by the following:

The number of sperm present:

This is also known as sperm concentration. Oligozoospermia is the term used when there is a decrease in the number of sperm in a man’s ejaculate. Oligozoospermia can be caused by a number of things including varicocele, lifestyle factors such as alcohol, smoking & obesity and genetic conditions. If there is no sperm present in a man’s ejaculate it is called azoospermia.


How well the sperm move / swim:

This is referred to as the sperm motility. A sperm needs to be able to swim in order to fertilize the female egg and achieve pregnancy. Poor sperm motility (also known as asthenozoospermia) can be caused by the same factors that cause a low sperm count.


What the sperm look like:

A normal sperm has an oval-shaped head and long tail. Unfortunately, not all sperm are created equal and most men will have some abnormal looking sperm hanging around. If too many sperm are abnormal, it is referred to as teratoszoospermia. 


Triple sperm defect:

This is the term used when the sperm quality is severely affected and there is a decreased number of sperm plus poor movement plus too many abnormally formed sperm. The medical term is oligo-astheno-teratozoospermioa or OAT. Varicoceles and environmental factors may cause OAT but also genetic conditions and problems that arise during the developmental phase of the testicles (in the foetus).


Decrease in sperm DNA quality:

Assessing the quality of the genetic material inside the sperm is a relatively new technology. We now know that poor DNA quality (referred to as a high DNA fragmentation index) contribute to infertility and may also be a cause of  repeated early loss of pregnancy (miscarriages). For men with a high DNA fragmentation index there are treatments available to improve the DNA quality of surgical procedures to find sperm with better DNA quality.

Poor sperm quality is surprisingly common. Depending on the cause, various treatment strategies are available. These may include changing lifestyle factors (such as alcohol and smoking), taking medication or in severe cases microsurgical procedures to find better quality sperm. Better quality sperm not only improves the chances of normal pregnancy but also success rates of assisted reproductive procedures (ART) such as IVF / ICSI.

The structure of a normal sperm

Sperm structure

Semen analysis test: What is "normal"?

semen analysis test