Standard fertility testing for men includes a semen analysis, which looks at the number of sperm, their motility, and strict morphology (the percentage of sperm that are normally shaped). While the semen analysis is useful, it is by no means comprehensive. Did you know that there’s another test that can provide even more information about male-factor infertility? The sperm DNA fragmentation test can help determine a couple’s chance for successful pregnancy based on the health of a man’s sperm.
What Is Sperm DNA Fragmentation?
Each sperm has two strands of DNA. Fragmentation occurs when one or both of these strands becomes damaged or broken. This can be caused by environmental factors, such as exposure to pollutants or pesticides, as well as age, overall health and lifestyle factors, like smoking and diet. As the percentage of DNA fragmentation increases, the odds of a successful pregnancy through natural conception or IUI decrease, so IVF or lifestyle changes may be recommended.
Sperm DNA Testing
The Fertility Center offers sperm DNA testing for our patients. A sample is collected either at home or in the office and is sent off to the lab for evaluation. Technicians use a fluorescent dye called acridine orange to check for fragmentation. When exposed to the dye, normal sperm will turn green, while sperm with fragmented DNA will appear red. Typically, patients showing more than 30% fragmentation will have a lower likelihood of successful pregnancy and may need to move to IVF.
Why Is IVF an Option?
For couples affected by sperm DNA fragmentation, IVF with ICSI is a viable treatment option. Our embryologist will evaluate a semen specimen and choose the healthiest sperm possible for the ICSI procedure, during which the sperm is injected into the egg, creating an embryo. Because the embryologist can select the sperm most likely to result in a healthy pregnancy, the level of fragmentation has less of an impact.
Don’t Lose Hope
While patients with a high percentage of fragmented sperm may feel discouraged, it’s important to remember that there is still a chance for a healthy pregnancy through IVF. Consult with your doctor about your treatment options.