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What are Abnormal Sperm and Why Do I Have Them?

Male Fertility and SpermThere are three main problems with a man’s sperm that can affect his fertility:

  1. Low sperm count
  2. Low sperm motility
  3. Abnormal sperm shape

The most common one, low sperm count, is the one that is most often discussed. Some experts suggest that over half of all male infertility is due to a low sperm count, so this stands to reason.

The are other types of sperm problems, however, that can interfere with pregnancy are low sperm motility (movement) and abnormal sperm. This article will examine abnormal sperm- what it is, its causes and what can be done about it.

The Shape of Your Sperm

Another way to describe the shape of your sperm is “sperm morphology.” It’s one of the three things a fertility specialist will be looking at when your sperm is analyzed. Fertility specialists track morphology in terms of a percentage. They report what percentage of your sperm appears to be normal when looked at through a microscope.

You’ve probably seen depictions of a normal sperm. A normal sperm has an oval-shaped head and a long, winding tail. An abnormal sperm will look differently - it may have an abnormally shaped head, crooked tale, two tails or an extra large head. Any of these conditions can become a problem for egg fertilization.

It’s not uncommon to have many abnormal sperm. In fact, your sperm is considered normal as long as 4% or more are “morphologically normal.” The rest of the sperm can be defective, as long as you have a few swimmers that really know what they’re doing.

It’s All in the Genes

Abnormal sperm can be caused by a number of factors, among the most common being age and genetics. As you age, your sperm tend to have a higher number of genetic abnormalities. It’s more likely for a man in his 50s to have a high number of abnormal sperm than it is for a man in his 20s, for example.

Exposure to heavy metals, radiation and even certain nutrients can also affect your sperm. These can cause a low sperm count, problems with motility as well as abnormal sperm. Abnormal sperm can also be caused by infection, fever, alcohol consumption, smoking, and certain medical abnormalities like a varicocele or a congenital testicular defect.

What to Do About it
Abnormal sperm is often only one of multiple issues causing a couple fertility problems. Many men who have abnormal sperm also have a low sperm count or low sperm motility, and in those instances all of the problems must be addressed.

For some men, the cause of the abnormal sperm can be treated. If your sperm are abnormal because you have an infection, an antibiotic may be able to clear things up. If it’s a congenital testicular defect, the issue is harder to correct.

In most cases, an aggressive fertility treatment approach is necessary to help the man with abnormal sperm. You and your partner may need to consider advanced treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer.

Sources:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8844314
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sperm-morphology/AN01305

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