Abnormal Sperm Morphology

Abnormal Sperm Morphology

My husband went for a semen analysis and the result showed that the morphology was 90 percent abnormal. Is this something you are born with, or does it have to do with a healthy diet or cigarette smoking?

Morphology refers to the shape and structure of the sperm. A normal-looking sperm has an oval head and a tail seven to 15 times longer than the head. On a semen analysis, in which we look at sperm under the microscope, we can identify defective sperm by their large heads or strange tails -- kinked, doubled, or coiled.

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) says good quality semen should contain 60 percent normal sperm morphology. A closer evaluation called a strict morphology, or Kruger morphology, is more time-consuming and usually predicts normal sperm function when more than 15 percent are normal. That means that a semen sample can include up to 40 percent abnormal sperm and still be considered fine.

All men produce many abnormal sperm. The reason is not known, but considering the rate at which a man's production line operates -- 10 million to 50 million new sperm per day -- some "factory seconds" should be expected. We do know that toxins such as lead have been linked to reduced motility (swimming ability), cigarette smoke to abnormal morphology, organic solvents to coiled tails, and excessive scrotal heat to coiled tails in animal sperm. When you lower your exposure to these agents, abnormal morphology levels usually decrease. I remember one man with a high level of abnormal sperm who transferred to a different job at his company so he could avoid exposure to heat from a blast furnace. He also began taking 1,000mg of vitamin C each day. Within a few months his sperm motility and morphology showed definite improvement.

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