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Male Infertility - Abnormal Sperm Tests

Male infertility accounts for almost half of infertility problems experienced by couples. However, men are more likely than women to feel embarrassed about their fertility problems and consequently find it difficult to get advice or talk to their doctor. It’s important to remember that men are half the fertility equation and therefore they experience the pain and grief of struggling to become a parent too. 


What causes an abnormal sperm result?

A diagnosis of a poor sperm sample can cause huge distress and confusion to both the man and woman. My patients frequently ask me to explain what their sperm test results mean, why is the sample results so poor and what can they do to increase their sperm count? An abnormal sperm test result is caused by abnormal semen (the fluid containing sperm that is ejaculated during sex). Possible reasons for abnormal semen include:

  • Decreased number of sperm – low sperm count, or no sperm at all.
  • Decreased sperm mobility – making it harder for the sperm to reach the ovum.
  • Abnormal sperm – sperm can sometimes be of abnormal shape, making it harder for them to move and fertilise an egg.


Many cases of abnormal semen are unexplained, but can be due to a variety of factors such as:

Sperm Production Problems

  • Chromosomal or genetic causes
  • Undescended testes (failure of the testes to descend at birth)                                     
  • Torsion (twisting of the testes in scrotum)
  • Varicocele (varicose veins of the testes)
  • Medicines and chemicals
  • Radiation Damage
  • Surgery or trauma to the testes
  • Unknown Cause

Sexual Problems (erection and ejaculation problems)

  • Retrograde and premature ejaculation
  • Failure of ejaculation
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infrequent intercourse
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Prostate surgery
  • Damage to nerves
  • Some medicines

Blockage of Sperm Transport

  • Infections
  • Prostate-related problems
  • Absence of vas deferens
  • Vasectomy

Hormonal Problems

  • Pituitary tumors
  • Hypogonadism
  • Congenital lack of LH/FSH (pituitary problem from birth)
  • Anabolic (androgenic) steroid abuse

Sperm Antibodies

  • Vasectomy
  • Injury or infection of the Epididymis       
  • Unknown cause                                                                                                                                                                                                                                


  • Alcohol
  • Toxin exposure
  • Occupation
  • Excessive exercise
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Age


How to improve a sperm result

I like to think of lifestyle issues as the ‘quick wins’. These are the factors that are within a man’s control to change and to make a reasonably quick improvement. Men regenerate sperm every 3 months, therefore if a man makes a concerted effort to change his lifestyle this can have a huge impact.

Keeping alcohol to the minimum while trying to conceive is vital. Spirits are particularly damaging to sperm and beer and lager are very acidic.

A man’s occupation may impact on the quality of their sperm, clearly it’s not always possible to change occupation but excessive time working in overly heated environments, such as kitchens may have a detrimental affect. Being aware of any exposure to toxins such as paint and glues are important and where possible taking precautions to minimise this exposure.

Exercising is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and helps to improve healthy sperm production, however excessive exercise may do more harm than good. This is especially so if men are wearing tight fitting underpants or sports wear for extended periods of time. This increases the temperature of the testes, that need to be kept cool to maintain the quality of the sperm.

Smoking damages sperm production substantially, however the good news is that if a man gives up smoking, in 3 months his sperm is likely to be back to normal.

Very few men are aware that being overweight or obese can cause problems with sperm production. Losing weight however, has a beneficial effect and this benefit can be seen relatively quickly.

It is often thought that men can conceive what ever their age and whilst this to a certain extend this is true, the percentage of healthy sperm does decrease the older they become. After the age of 45 men are more likely to have less motile sperm and an increase percentage of abnormal sperm

What else can my partner do?

Having a healthy balanced diet is crucial for good sperm production and is the most effective way in which to ensure a good intake of all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients required for spermatogenesis.

Sperm production may also be improved by taking supplements. There are many supplements on the market that claim to have a beneficial effect and if you are considering trying supplements, it’s worth doing your research first to find the right one. Nutrients such as zinc and selenium may also have a beneficial effect on healthy sperm development, however further scientific research is required to support this claim.

Book your FREE consultation with the OvuSense Fertility Nurse, Kate -  to assess your fertility potential, answer your burning fertility questions, get recommendations on how to optimize your fertility and have your charts analysed.

If you are an OvuSense customer you are entitled to a FREE 1 hour consult, if you are not currently using OvuSense you can book a FREE 15 minute consultation. Consultations are held by Skype or Telephone. Don't see a time that suits you? Email Kate on kate.davies@fertility-focus.com