What is male infertility due to sperm?

Only properly shaped, rapidly moving sperm can reach the woman’s egg. If sperm are not properly shaped or move too slowly, sperm-related infertility may occur.

Sperm production & function

Sperm development occurs in the various structures of the testes and is controlled by the body’s hormonal system. 

Sperm count refers to the number of sperm cells per milliliter of semen: a sperm count between 20 million to 40 million is considered a healthy fertile range for men. Anything less can be considered a root cause of infertility. 

To be considered healthy, at least 50% of sperm must demonstrate sustained movement for at least three hours immediately after the sample is obtained. At least 50% of ejaculated sperm should be alive and at least 4% should be of normal physical appearance (head and tail characteristics).

Causes of sperm-related male infertility

  • Azoospermia (no sperm in their semen)
  • Abnormal antibodies against the man's own sperm (antibodies attack the sperm)
  • Varioceles (abnormal formation of veins above the testicle) 
  • Retrograde ejaculation (semen does not exit the body and instead goes backwards into the abdomen)
  • Inability to ejaculate (spinal cord injury or psychological reasons)
  • Sperm number and quality (health and lifestyle choices such as alcohol, tobacco or drugs; cancer treatments; environmental toxins such as lead or pesticides; certain medications, age, or poor health.)
  • Congenital Absence of Vas Deferens (CAVD; men born without the tubes that connect the testes to the urethra) 

Up to 25% of infertile men have low sperm counts, but do not present an identifiable reason.

Fortunately, our state-of-the-art reproductive technologies often make it possible to overcome infertility caused by sperm.

Symptoms of male infertility due to sperm

Other than a lack of ejaculation, there are often no outward symptoms of problems with a man’s sperm.

Treatment for male infertility due to sperm

A comprehensive semen analysis is the standard test for diagnosing male infertility due to sperm. Semen samples for analysis and for fertility treatments are obtained either through masturbation or through one of several minor urological procedures called MESA, PESA, TESA and TESE. Each of these procedures extracts sperm from the testes themselves.

Once the sperm is analyzed, fertility treatments such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) are options. Another technique, called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where one sperm is injected directly into a woman’s egg, is recommended in certain cases of male infertility.