Causes of Infertility: Sperm Morphology

If you and your partner have been trying to conceive without success for an extended period of time, you'll benefit from visiting a fertility doctor to inquire about the potential causes of infertility that could be setting you back. There are a number of different potential causes which may cause you problems becoming pregnant.

One of the potential problems that occurs on the male side is sperm morphology. Generally speaking, morphology refers to the physical characteristics of an organism or a cell. Sperm morphology issues have to do with the size and shape of the sperm. Although this problem can cause some severe difficulties for couples, it is not an insurmountable challenge to conceiving and successfully having a child.

Sperm Morphology Overview

Healthy sperm have an oval-shaped head and a long, thin tail. The shape of the sperm head and the length and size of the tail provide it with the means that it requires to successfully reach the egg. Sperm morphology problems can occur in either the head or the tail, and often in both at the same time. These may include shortened or missing tails, misshapen or enlarged heads, and more. The difficulty with sperm morphology problems of this type is that they can negatively impact two important factors that play into the chance of conception: motility and count.

Sperm motility refers to the movement of the sperm. If sperm cannot move properly toward the egg, the chances of a successful conception go down considerably. The sperm count refers to the total number of sperm within the semen. The fewer sperm there are, the less likely that conception is. However, it's important to realize that a standard ejaculate contains millions of sperm cells.

Knowing When There Are Sperm Morphology Problems

The best way to determine sperm morphology problems is to have an experienced fertility specialist visually analyze the sperm under a powerful microscope. This will allow the specialist to actually count up the misshapen and morphologically damaged sperm. The results of the sperm morphology test will be given in a percentage form; the percentage refers to the portion of the sperm that the specialist saw in the sample that are of normal morphology. It's generally not considered a problem toward conception unless the majority of the sperm are misshapen (i.e., the morphology report is lower than 50 percent).

Dealing with Morphology Problems

If you've been diagnosed with sperm morphology problems, the general recommendation is to continue to try to conceive. Morphology issues can stem from other health issues like fevers. They can often resolve themselves over time, and even having a low percentage of standard sperm will not necessarily make conception impossible. If the morphology reading doesn't improve over several months, you may consider artificial insemination or other potential methods of conception as recommended by your fertility specialist. Generally, however, these options are kept as a last resort.