Sperm quality and quantity are the key determiners of male fertility. Acknowledging this fact, the current article sets out to examine the minimum sperm count required in IVF treatment to assist in the fertilization of female eggs in the first place. It will also attempt to analyze the role of the IVF treatment centers/hospitals in providing the best treatment options for fertility issues in a man.
Differentiating Between Normal and Low Sperm Count
Fertilization is not possible without the sperm uniting with the eggs. Whether this happens naturally or through clinical procedures like IVF, sperm count is essential to fertilizing a single egg. If not, at least a minimum count should be considered to ensure the chances of fertilization. Additionally, maintaining sperm quality is critical to this process.
Sperm count becomes a concern for a male and his partner when they are planning to conceive. While normal sperm count comes between 15 million to more than 200 million sperm per 1 mL of semen, fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter or less than 39 million total sperm per ejaculate account for a low sperm count, medically termed as Oligospermia. Checking sperm count either from home or from a clinic will help one determine whether one is having any fertility-related issues.
Checking Sperm Count
Semen analysis is the best way to check for sperm count and serves three major purposes, namely
- Sperm volume (number): One of the vital parameters to check for sperm viability is sperm volume. Of note, male fertility level can be easily judged by calculating sperm volume in a lab.
- Shape: If a sperm possesses a normal shape, the chances of fertility in a male increase by 14%.
- Movement: This is the most decisive factor indicating a sperm’s motility to move and fertilize an egg.
From a clinical perspective, a physician can recommend three sets of semen analyses for obtaining an accurate sperm count. Semen analysis is usually undertaken in a lab and assessed for sperm motility and morphology. Of note, semen is also analyzed in some IVF centers before the procedure to rule out male infertility from any unknown, underlying cause.
Here, it’s worth noting that a semen analysis typically assesses sperm quality. Based on the mentioned criteria or parameters—volume, movement, and shape—it primarily indicates sperm quality rather than quantity.
Comparison of Minimum Sperm Count Required for Natural Fertilization and IVF Treatment
Minimum Sperm Count For Normal Pregnancy
If a single ejaculate carries about 15 million sperm per one milliliter of semen, it should denote its efficiency in fertilizing a single egg. A count below this level is more than likely to cause difficulty for the sperm to travel to the egg. As we understand it, an increase in sperm volume and density significantly enhances fertility chances, while a lower sperm count in an ejaculate reduces its motility. However, there are debates surrounding this, as we have learned that, regardless of the amount of healthy sperm a fertile male possesses, we cannot completely eliminate the possibility of a failed pregnancy due to the inability to impregnate a woman.
Minimum Sperm Count For Assisted Reproduction Technique (IVF)
Normally, 10 x 10 (6) sperm/mL of semen is required for artificial insemination. Out of these, 30% need to be motile with 15% having progressive motility. While this count is more than enough to incite a successful pregnancy, on a much lower parameter, 20% spermatozoa will be sufficient to achieve the desired outcome if sperm has normal morphology.
How Can IVF Improve Pregnancy Chances in Cases of Low Sperm Count?
In-vitro fertilization can effectively improve the chances of pregnancy even with low sperm count. When extracting the healthiest sperm from the semen sample, this is injected directly with the most mature egg back into the uterine wall. This technique helps even the low motile sperm to increase their chances of fertilization without needing to move/travel up the tubes.
Thus, even if a sperm has low motility, its capacity to penetrate the egg and impregnate a woman is what IVF looks for. This, however, leaves a question as to whether an abnormal sperm can be fertile enough. Surprisingly, the answer is ‘Yes,’ likely prompting another question, ‘How is it possible?’ This can be effectively explained by considering that if there are only a few abnormal sperm, this is possible, meaning the count should be low. However, if there are too many of them, their abnormal appearance and shape will make it unlikely for them to fertilize an egg.
Role of Fertility Centers in Maximizing Sperm Quality
Given the proven impact of minimal sperm counts on pregnancy, fertility centers must prioritize healthy, viable sperm for successful conception. To reiterate, sperm motility, morphology, and shape should also be analyzed before recommending possible measures to couples facing fertility issues.
Doing so will help them accurately diagnose any underlying condition to further defer their fertility therapy to a later date for seeking expert opinion. Also, identifying factors responsible for affecting sperm health will enable a couple to address the same. Doing so will further result in increasing sperm quality. Efforts in these regards will include making the necessary lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a normal BMI (body mass index), regular exercises, and checking semen analysis, either at a fertility clinic or at home to check for the minimum sperm count required to ensure fertility.
The article “Minimum sperm count for IVF’ has helped determine that sperm quality is what a couple should look for when deciding to conceive. This was in light of the fact regarding the availability of healthy sperm despite high sperm count. It would be worth mentioning here the role of the IVF treatment centers in examining underlying factors affecting sperm health, as well as recommending effective measures to address the same.