Sperm morphology describes the size and shape of sperm
If you’ve had a semen analysis, you may have been told by your doctor that you have abnormal sperm morphology.
This probably raises more questions than answers: What exactly does morphology mean? How does this affect my fertility? Can I do anything about it?
Sperm morphology refers to the size and shape of sperm that is measured during a semen analysis. This test is commonly performed on men undergoing fertility testing and is one of the first diagnostic tests performed during a couple’s fertility workup.
Normal sperm are shaped similar to a tadpole and have an oval head with a long tail. Abnormal sperm usually have head, midpiece or tail defects — such as a large or misshapen head or a crooked or double tail. These defects might affect the ability of the sperm to reach and penetrate an egg.
Having abnormally shaped sperm is not uncommon
While learning your sperm are abnormally shaped may be upsetting to hear at first, it may be comforting to know that all men produce some degree of abnormal sperm. In fact, morphology is considered normal if just 4% of the sperm in a semen sample are normally shaped, meaning that the vast majority don’t look perfect under the microscope.
Fertility specialists become concerned when the ratio of normal to abnormal sperm is below 4% and has the potential to impact fertility. Having a large number of abnormally formed sperm in a sample and a low normal form score are signs of a condition called teratozoospermia.
In many cases, sperm morphology abnormalities do not impact the sperm’s overall functionality. They may still be able to swim and penetrate the egg to fertilize it. But abnormally shaped sperm may not be able to move properly or quickly enough to reach and breach the egg’s protective membrane.
Sperm morphology is only one piece of the fertility puzzle
Morphology is only one of many factors when it comes to analyzing sperm for fertility. Your doctor will also look at the number of overall sperm, how easily they move, and the volume of ejaculate. Of all the measurements taken, total sperm count is often the most predictive of fertility.
Most male fertility experts agree that the role of sperm morphology in predicting pregnancy is unclear, and that it’s a poor predictor of infertility unless nearly 100% of the sperm are abnormally shaped. Studies have shown that even men with no normally shaped sperm can still conceive naturally. Additionally, these misshapen sperm do not necessarily mean that there are problems with them genetically.
Lifestyle changes may improve sperm morphology
Your body is always producing new sperm, so changes to your diet or lifestyle can impact the health of your future sperm. Some changes you should consider include losing weight, exercising regularly, and avoiding heavy drinking, tobacco use, or drugs, especially marijuana.
Some natural supplements and vitamins may be helpful for promoting normal sperm morphology too. These include Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Co-Enzyme Q, Omega-3 and zinc. Since it takes up to 3 months to produce mature sperm, it’s important to take them for at least 2-3 months prior to seeing the maximal benefit.
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