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Male-Factor Infertility Sperm Morphology and Low Sperm Count

Approximately one out of eight couples in the United States seek help for fertility issues. Statistics suggest that thirty-five to forty percent of the problems are caused by male conditions, another thirty-five to forty percent are caused by female conditions, and twenty to thirty percent are caused by a combination of the two. 

The best way to evaluate for a male condition is a semen analysis. Abnormal parameters of a semen analysis include: 

  • a low sperm count
  • impaired motility of the sperm
  • abnormal morphology (size and shape of the sperm). 

 Poor Sperm motility is referred to as asthenozoospermia. It is characterized either by sluggish movement, non-progressive movement, or no movement at all. Common causes of this condition include:

  • Lifestyle factors such as smoking
  • Genetic factors
  • Varicocele


L-carnitine, a naturally occurring compound in the body, has been shown to help improve the motility of the sperm. L-carnitine is an amino acid that is necessary to shuttle fatty acids across the cells’ mitochondria membrane. The mitochondria is responsible for creating, sustaining, and managing cellular energy. Also, L-carnitine is a potent anti-oxidant and has been reported to increase sperm health. Many supplements designed for increasing the fertility of males and sperm health include L-carnitine as a major component.

Abnormal sperm morphology is characterized by having abnormal heads and tails. The head may be too large or too small; the tail may be doubled or even crooked. These sperm abnormalities effect the sperm’s ability to swim and fertilize the egg. 

 Causes of abnormal sperm morphology include congenital abnormalities and underlying health conditions. Some common causes of abnormal sperm morphology include:

  • Varicocele
  • Infections
  • Smoking
  • marijuana use
  • alcohol use
  • illegal drug use

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for abnormal sperm morphology; however, this does not mean pregnancy cannot occur. There are many cases with low sperm morphology where pregnancy has been achieved. The debate of whether or not boxers vs. briefs are better has never been scientifically proven. Similarly, staying out of hot tubs and saunas does not markedly effect sperm count or function.

        When phased with a low sperm count or abnormal morphology, advanced treatments, including inseminations as well as in vitro fertilization with intracytoplasmic sperm injections (Icyy), will help to overcome these sperm issues. Advancements in science have fortunately made it possible for most males, even with the lowest sperm counts, to be able to achieve pregnancy.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.