Things That Can Wrong With Sperm That Cause Infertility

Infertility among couples is evenly spread out — a third of causes lie with the woman, one-third with the man, and the final third with both or for reasons unknown. If we find that male infertility is the problem, we first look to issues with your sperm.

At NOVA IVF, our fertility specialists Meera Shah, MD, and Richard Schmidt, MD, specialize in helping our clients overcome fertility problems and create the family of their dreams. When male infertility is hampering these efforts, the problem usually involves sperm. 

Here’s a look at some of the more common causes of male infertility.

The complex road to conception

While you may understand what it takes to conceive, it’s worth reviewing this complex process to give you an idea of the many ways that sperm can influence fertility problems.

For conception, a woman needs to release an egg into her fallopian tubes, where it awaits fertilization. Sperm need to make their way through, and then one needs to hit the mark, which means penetrating and fertilizing the egg. At this point, the embryo then moves to the woman’s uterus and attaches itself.

The journey that sperm make starts in a man’s testes, which are responsible for producing sperm. From the testes, the sperm are housed in your epididymis, and when you have an orgasm, the sperm are expelled into your vas deferens. 

From there, the sperm travel through your seminal vesicle and your ejaculatory duct, where they join the ejaculate to form semen and exit through your urethra.

Every time you ejaculate, you expel 40-150 million sperm. Under the best of circumstances, fast-moving sperm can make their way to the egg in half an hour, while others may take a few days. Sperm can live up to 48-72 hours, so the window for fertilization is quite large.

Problems with sperm

There are several issues that can affect the complex fertilization process on the male side, including:

Low sperm count

Also called oligospermia, this is a condition in which your testes produce very low numbers of sperm.

No sperm

If you have a condition called azoospermia, you may not be ejaculating any sperm at all, which occurs in 10-15% of men who are infertile.

Oddly shaped sperm or poorly moving sperm

In some cases, you may have enough sperm, but the sperm are irregularly shaped and can’t penetrate the egg or they don’t move quickly enough (low motility).

Immature sperm

If your sperm don’t develop properly, they may not be mature enough for fertilization.

Behind the problems with sperm

There are many reasons your sperm may not have the characteristics needed for fertilization, including:

To determine which combination of factors may be contributing to your fertility issues, we typically first evaluate your sperm and then look for any contributing factors, such as a blockage, a structural issue, or metabolic problems.

Once we have a better idea of what may be affecting your sperm, we get you started on an appropriate treatment plan to help you realize your goals.

To learn more about the role that sperm play in male infertility, contact our office in Mountain View, California, to set up a consultation.

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