Sperm counts worldwide have plummeted by 62 per cent since 1973, according to a recent study published in the journal Human Reproduction Update.
Dr James Hopkisson, Medical Director at TFP Fertility Group, one of the UK’s largest IVF providers and fertility specialists with clinics across Europe, answers questions surrounding sperm count and what factors could help improve sperm health.
A semen analysis is an assessment of the number, motility and morphology of sperm in what is ejaculated. It should be carried out in a specialist laboratory and the normal parameters are dictated by a population survey by the World Health Organisation.
A sample should be ejaculated into a sterile pot provided by the lab, usually after two to three days abstinence, to optimise sperm quality. The sample needs to be delivered to the lab within an hour of production to be analysed. If this proves difficult you can do your sample at the Fertility Unit so as not to have the anxiety of bringing the sample in.
If you have a low count, motility or morphology it is worth repeating 2-3 months later after lifestyle change. Sperm count can fluctuate so sometimes it is not something to worry about.
If there are persistent issues with a sperm count then referral to get advice on types of treatment available is required. If there is no sperm in the ejaculate (azoospermia) other tests may be required such as hormonal assessments, genetic tests and a medical examination of the testes including ultrasound. These will require review by your doctor and referral onto a fertility specialist. This can either be in the NHS or at a fertility clinic such as TFP Fertility Group.
Morphology is what a sperm looks like down the microscope. A sperm has a head, a midpiece and a tail. We can look at different parts of the sperm and see if they look “normal”.
A bit like a tadpole. It should also be swimming in a characteristic way.
Yes, there are many:
If concerned seek the opinion of an expert, at TFP Fertility Group we have a group of doctors and scientists who can help, advise and reassure you. Our labs are quality tested and we have andrologists and lab teams that can help provide semen analysis.
Dr James Hopkisson is one of TFP Fertility Group’s two medical directors. He is an RCOG Subspecialist in reproductive medicine and surgery and has been involved with IVF and fertility management since 1993.
He completed his research and training in Oxford before moving to Nottingham to take up his consultant post and lead the NHS Fertility service at QMC. His research looked at the development of endometriosis and the endometrium and he has extended his interest since to become an experienced laparoscopic (keyhole) surgeon in endometriosis, adhesions and fibroids.
He has authored or co-authored 30 papers and book chapters. James sat on the RCOG Subspecialty Committee and is the lead for subspecialty training in reproductive medicine in Nottingham, the programme for training the next generation of specialist doctors in fertility.