About 13 out of 100 couples find it difficult to have children despite having sex regularly. One reason is sperm abnormalities. This disorder can lie in the number, shape, or ability to move sperm cells.
Sperm cells are produced in the testes or testicles. Sperm cell production is influenced by many factors, such as testosterone levels and testicular temperature. When men ejaculate, millions of sperm cells will be released through the penis with a liquid called semen or semen.
These sperm cells will then move in the uterus to the fallopian tubes or female fallopian tubes, where sperm cells can fertilize the egg and cause pregnancy. If there are abnormalities in the number, shape, or ability to move sperm, fertilization of the egg will be more difficult.
To determine the condition of sperm cells, the doctor will suggest semen analysis or sperm examination. In this examination, semen ejaculated during masturbation will be accommodated in a sterile container and examined in a laboratory to find the presence or absence of sperm abnormalities.
Sperm Abnormalities in Terms of Number
The small number of sperm causes decreased chances of fertilization. This is because not all sperm that make it into the womb will successfully pass the fallopian tube and fertilize the egg.
A man is said to have oligozoospermia when the number of sperm cells released during ejaculation is less than 15 million cells per milliliter of semen, and is said to be azoospermia if his semen has no sperm at all.
Some conditions that can cause oligozoospermia or azoospermia are:
- Hormonal disorders, such as low levels of the hormone testosterone
- A history of the testicles did not descend into the testicular sac (cryptorchidism) as a child
- Widening of veins in the scrotum (varicocele)
- Infection of the testicles or surrounding structures due to bacteria, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea; or infections due to viruses, such as mumps
- Blockage or damage to the epididymis and vas deferens which serves to deliver sperm out of the testis
- Smoking habits, excessive alcohol consumption, or using illegal drugs
- Overweight or obese
- Use of certain antibiotic and corticosteroid drugs
- History of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Sperm Disorders in Terms of Motion Ability
Sperm that can move in the uterus and reach the fallopian tube are sperm that have good motility or ability to move. Conversely, sperm that have poor motility move slowly, spin around, or even not move at all.
Sperm are said to be motile (actively moving) if they are able to move forward, at least 25 micrometers every second.
If a man has a sperm count with normal motility less than 40% of the total sperm he ejects, then the man is said to have asthenozoospermia. The smaller the percentage of motile sperm, the smaller the chance of conception.
Some things that can increase a man’s risk of experiencing asthenozoospermia are:
- Genetic or hereditary factors
- Smoking habits, especially when smoking more than 10 cigarettes per day
- Varicocele, which is the dilation of veins in the scrotum
- Abnormalities in the male reproductive glands, such as the seminal vesicle glands that produce semen.
Sperm Abnormalities in Terms of Shape
Normal sperm cells have an oval head and a long tail. The shape of the sperm cell head will greatly affect the ability of the sperm to penetrate the egg and fertilize. The tail of the sperm is also important to determine the ability of sperm.
If the sperm cell shape is not normal, the chances of conception will decrease. A man is said to have teratozoospermia if the number of normal-sized sperm is less than 14% of the total sperm he produces. The smaller the number, the lower the fertility rate of a man.
Some things that can cause abnormalities in the form of sperm are:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Use of illegal drugs
- Smoking habit
- Exposure to radiation or hazardous chemicals
Sperm disorders, both in terms of number, shape, and ability to move, can interfere with male fertility. To reduce the risk of abnormalities in sperm and improve sperm quality, you need to adopt a healthy lifestyle, such as regular exercise and eating nutritious foods.
Research shows that adequate intake of antioxidants, such as vitamin C and beta carotene, can help maintain sperm health. These antioxidants are widely found in vegetables and fruits.
If you have had sexual intercourse routinely for 1 year but have not succeeded in having children, you and your partner should consult a doctor. The doctor will conduct a series of examinations to find out the cause, including examination of semen to determine the presence or absence of sperm abnormalities.