Infertility is the inability of couples to conceive, or the failure to get pregnant after a year of regular sexual intercourse without contraception. Today, one in six couples struggle from infertility and it is rampant among both men and women. Often, male infertility is due to issues with the sperm, such as poor sperm quality or low sperm count. Sperm count and quality are connected to pregnancy success.
To assess if the male partner is the reason for a couple being infertile, a semen analysis is the test of choice. Multiple studies link a lack of quality of semen to infertility. The World Health Organization (WHO) back in 1980 recruited a team of scientists and physicians and published a manual that described the semen parameters a man should ideally have to produce offspring without undergoing treatment.
Role of Sperms in Causing Pregnancy
Scientifically speaking, it takes just one sperm to fertilize a woman’s egg. However, for each sperm that reaches the egg, there are thousands that don’t. When a man ejaculates, he releases close to 100 million sperms on an average.
A layman may ask if it takes only one sperm for a woman to get pregnant why are millions of sperms released. That’s because to reach the waiting egg, semen must travel from a woman’s vagina to the fallopian tubes and only the strongest sperm survive this journey. This is nature’s way of letting only the healthiest sperm to impregnate the woman.
What is Sperm Count?
Sperm count is a measure of the number of sperms per ejaculation, which is used as an indication of a man’s fertility. The condition wherein a man suffers from a low sperm count is referred to as Oligozoospermia. For a man with a normal sperm count, the number ranges from 15 million sperm to over 200 million sperm per ml of semen. A count of less than 39 million sperm per ejaculate or 15 million sperm per ml, is considered low. An above-average sperm count is over 200 million sperm per ml.
What is Sperm Motility?
Sperm motility is the sperm’s ability to move through the female reproductive area without any hindrance to meet the egg. It is a major factor in successful conception. When a man has healthy sperm motility, the sperm moves at a speed of at least 25 micrometers per second. The condition where a man has poor sperm mobility is called Asthenozoospermia.
What is Sperm Morphology?
Morphology refers to the outline of a sperm or what it looks like under a microscope. Morphology specifically looks at the sperm’s shape and its size. The head shape is vital as it affects the sperm’s ability to liquify the outer layer of an egg and fertilize it. According to WHO 2010 edition 4% and above is considered as normal.
Impact of Morphology, Motility, and Count on Infertility
Abnormally shaped sperm can fertilize an egg but having a high amount of such sperms result in abnormalities in the fetus. Also some studies have shown that High morphology index have higher DNA fragmention Chances.
Sperm motility has a major influence on fertility because sperms must travel through a woman’s reproductive tract to fertilize her egg. Poor sperm motility is a major cause of male infertility.
If the number of sperms in your semen is low, it cuts the odds of your sperm fertilizing your partner’s egg. Fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen or fewer than 39 million per ejaculate is often a cause of male infertility.
Medical Procedures for People Suffering from Infertility
There are several procedures by which couples suffering from infertility can still get pregnant. Here are three major procedures:
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
In this procedure, sperm cells are directly placed in the uterus when a woman is ovulating, thereby helping the sperm get closer to the egg. For a woman under 35, the success rate in this procedure is around 10% to 20%. In contrast, for a woman over 40, there is only 2% to 5% chance of success. The minimum number of motile sperms required for this procedure to be successful is approximately 6.7 million per insemination.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
In this procedure, eggs and sperm are fused outside the body in a laboratory. Once an embryo develops, they are placed in the uterus. In this procedure, at least 10 x 10(6) spermatozoa/ml, of which a minimum 30% must be motile and 15% must have progressive motility, are required for the procedure to be successful. Pregnancy has been achieved in an average of 29.4% of all cycles (lower or higher based on the woman’s age).
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection is a specialized form of IVF wherein the embryologist takes a single sperm and injects it directly into an egg. This procedure is the most effective as it has enabled many infertile couples get pregnant when, without it, they would have been unable to conceive. The ICSI procedure fertilizes 50 %to 80% of eggs. The ideal sperm criteria in this procedure is the same as IVF.
For all the procedures mentioned above, age and lifestyle will have an impact on the success rate. Sperm count is not the only factor that matters when you are trying to conceive. It is equally important to have an overall healthy sperm. Getting pregnant with low sperm count will differ based on both partner’s health. At Femiint Fertility the success rate for IUI is 10%-15%, for IVF it is 40% – 45%, and for ICSI it is 45% – 50%. You can reach out to our fertility specialists for assessment of your sperm count and other factors before planning for your future.