Sperm quality is easily evaluated by performing a semen analysis.
A sperm sample is produced, (preferably by masturbation, but can also be collected into a special condom), after 3-4 days of abstinence. It is then analyzed in the laboratory by trained andrologists for count, percent motility and morphology.
A normal sample has between 20-100 million cells /ml and forty percent of those should be moving forward. We call these measurements: Bulk Semen Parameters. A majority of the sperm cells are filtered, first at the cervix and then at the opening to the fallopian tubes. Abnormalities in bulk semen parameters can significantly decrease the potential of creating a pregnancy.
The shape (morphology) of the sperm cell is another important factor. A normal sperm cell has three parts: a head, which contains the genetic material; a tail, which moves the sperm cell forward; and a mid-piece, which is like a battery pack. The genetic material is surrounded by a bag of enzymes called the acrosome, which help the sperm to fuse with the egg cell membrane. Abnormalities in shape are often, but not always, indicative of abnormal functioning of the sperm quality.
Using Strict criteria, if less than 14% of cells are normally shaped, the chance of fertilization is decreased. If less than 4% of cells are normal, the chance of complete fertilization failure is extremely high and treatment with IVF/Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is recommended.
Mild abnormalities of the semen analysis can sometimes be successfully treated with intrauterine insemination (IUI), however, moderate to severe abnormalities are should be treated with IVF/ICSI to offer any reasonable chance of success. Because the semen analysis is such an important factor in determining treatment, it should only be performed in a laboratory that is especially equipped to handle them and that performs them often, such as the lab at New York Fertility Services.