What is asthenozoospermia? – Causes, Effects, Diagnosis & Treatment options
What is asthenozoospermia?
Asthenozoospermia is a condition characterized by reduced sperm motility, affecting male fertility. Sperm with poor motility have difficulty swimming effectively through the female reproductive tract, hindering their ability to reach and fertilize an egg, leading to difficulties in conceiving a child.
Prevalence of asthenozoospermia and its impact on fertility
Asthenozoospermia is relatively common, contributing to male infertility worldwide. Its prevalence varies but can affect a significant percentage of men seeking to conceive. Reduced sperm motility impairs the chances of fertilization, emphasizing the importance of early diagnosis and appropriate treatments to improve fertility outcomes.
How to diagnose asthenozoospermia?
Asthenozoospermia is diagnosed when sperm motility is less than 50 percent or when sperm travels at a speed of 25 micrometers/second in the female reproductive tract.
Diagnosing asthenozoospermia involves a comprehensive semen analysis, where the sperm’s motility and other parameters are evaluated. A qualified healthcare professional examines the sample to determine if progressive sperm motility is below the normal threshold, usually 32-40%. The assessment helps identify the condition’s presence and severity, aiding in the development of appropriate fertility treatment plans.
Causes of asthenozoospermia
Certain infections, such as sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea), can negatively impact sperm motility. Infections may lead to inflammation and scarring in the male reproductive system, affecting sperm production and movement.
Some medications, like certain antibiotics, hormone therapies, and chemotherapy drugs, can interfere with sperm production and motility. Prolonged use or high doses of these medications may contribute to asthenozoospermia.
A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins within the scrotum, leading to increased testicular temperature and impaired sperm production. It can also affect sperm motility due to altered testicular conditions.
4. Immunological factors
Sometimes, the male’s immune system may produce antibodies against his own sperm, causing them to clump together or become less motile. This immune response can be a result of infection, trauma, or other unknown factors.
5. Chromosome abnormalities
Genetic abnormalities, such as deletions or rearrangements in the chromosomes, can lead to asthenozoospermia. These abnormalities may affect sperm development and motility, resulting in reduced fertility.
6. Environmental toxins
Exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, and industrial chemicals can have harmful effects on sperm quality, including motility. These toxins can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance and impair sperm function.
7. Lifestyle factors
Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse, and obesity, can contribute to asthenozoospermia. These factors can disrupt hormone levels, reduce sperm production, and hinder sperm motility.
It is important to note that while these factors can contribute to asthenozoospermia, the condition’s cause may vary from person to person, and sometimes the exact cause remains unknown. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause, if possible, can improve sperm motility and increase the chances of successful conception. Consulting a fertility specialist and undergoing a comprehensive evaluation is essential for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment recommendations.
Treatment of asthenozoospermia
Treatment of asthenozoospermia aims to enhance sperm motility and increase the chances of successful conception. Depending on the severity of the condition and other fertility factors, different treatment options are available:
1. Improved Lifestyle Habits
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can positively impact sperm motility. Quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and avoiding recreational drugs can improve sperm quality. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and managing stress are also beneficial.
2. Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART)
Treatment with certain assisted reproductive techniques is usually recommended when asthenozoospermia is severe or when other fertility factors are present. These procedures help overcome sperm motility issues and provide a higher chance of achieving pregnancy. They include –
a. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
IVF is a widely used fertility treatment where mature eggs are retrieved from the woman’s ovaries and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory. The resulting embryos are then transferred to the woman’s uterus. IVF bypasses any sperm motility issues, allowing fertilization to occur outside the body.
b. Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
IUI involves placing specially prepared sperm directly into the woman’s uterus during her fertile period. This procedure increases the number of sperm reaching the fallopian tubes, bypassing the cervix and improving the chances of fertilization.
c. Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
ICSI is an advanced form of IVF where a single sperm is directly injected into the egg. This technique is particularly beneficial for couples dealing with severe male infertility issues, including asthenozoospermia, as it only requires one motile sperm for successful fertilization.
3. Medical Treatment
In some cases, underlying medical conditions contributing to asthenozoospermia, such as infections or hormonal imbalances, can be treated with medications. If a varicocele is causing the issue, surgical correction may be considered.
4. Antioxidant Supplementation
Antioxidant supplements may be prescribed to improve sperm function and motility by reducing oxidative stress.
5. Artificial Insemination
This involves directly injecting prepared sperm into the woman’s reproductive tract. While it can be effective for mild cases of asthenozoospermia, it may not be suitable for severe cases.
The Impact of asthenozoospermia on couples’ mental health can cause emotional distress and anxiety as they struggle to conceive. It may also lead to stress, guilt, relationship strain, and feelings of isolation, impacting their mental health and well-being.
It is essential for couples to consult a fertility specialist who can assess the specific factors contributing to asthenozoospermia and recommend the most appropriate treatment. In some cases, a combination of lifestyle changes and assisted reproductive techniques may be recommended to maximize the chances of a successful pregnancy.