Q: My partner had an abnormal sperm count and we are desperate. Does that mean we will never get pregnant?

A: A normal semen analysis or sperm count is a finding that reliably shows there's no problem with the male's fertility. But a single abnormal sperm count doesn't necessarily mean that there is anything wrong.

First, you need to know which of these tests came back abnormal, because not all have the same significance. For example, is it the number of sperm, the appearance, the movement?

Most doctors will repeat an abnormal sperm count because many things can happen to the semen sample while it's being collected or is on the way to the lab. Results must be confirmed before any conclusions are reached or further exams ordered. Information from an abnormal count can be used to determine if additional tests need to be done or if a urologist should be consulted. The results will also tell the doctor whether fertility procedures such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or intracytoplasmic injection of sperm (ICSI) will increase the chance of pregnancy. Even when abnormal test results are confirmed, it usually does not mean pregnancy is impossible.

Even men with very low sperm counts have been known to father children through intercourse. If you have even a small amount of sperm, there's no reason to give up, it just will make it more difficult. What matters is not how many or how fast they swim, but whether they can fertilize your partner's eggs. Up to 10% of men with abnormally low sperm count can potentially impregnate a woman.

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