In previous blog posts we have discussed that there are many possible reasons why the baby’s arrival could be delayed. One of the causes could be due to alterations in the sperm, whose importance in the fertilization process is vital because it is the male sexual cell that unites with the female egg to achieve sexual reproduction.
To achieve a pregnancy, it is important that the spermatozoa have an adequate structure, complete DNA and rapid movement to arrive intact on their way to the egg.
What is Asthenozoospermia?
Asthenozoospermia or asthenospermia is a male infertility cause. It consists of an alteration in semen quality caused by a decrease in the percentage of mobile sperm, so they cannot reach the egg and fertilize it. A man is considered to be affected with this condition when he has at least 60% immotile sperm.
On many occasions, asthenozoospermia is accompanied by oligospermia, that is, a low concentration of sperm in the semen that is ejaculated.
Asthenozoospermia does not cause clinical manifestations, so affected men can have normal sexual relations and only see their condition reflected when trying to get pregnant.
Factors that can cause asthenozoospermia
Seminal tract infection . When there is presence of germs from the prostate in the semen, there are inflammatory processes that obstruct the seminal tract. Sometimes these germs adhere to the sperm and affect their ability to move, and therefore, to fertilize the egg. Other infectious diseases that cause inflammation, such as the mumps virus, can also affect sperm.
Presence of antisperm antibodies. When an infection occurs, pathogenic microorganisms cause the presence of sperm antibodies to combat them, generating a series of detrimental effects since the antibodies attack the sperm and can alter the seminal plasma, its mobility and fertilizing capacity. Some immune disorders could also cause a man to produce antibodies that attack his own sperm.
Varicocele. The presence of dilated veins in the scrotum and the spermatic cord that drains the testicles is usually unilateral, that is, in a single testicle, but sometimes it affects both and is usually a reason for infertility since it raises the intratesticular temperature, which affects the sperm´s formation and maturation process. Between 50% and 70% of patients with varicocele have semen alterations such as oligospermia (low sperm concentration), teratozoospermia (alterations in sperm morphology) and asthenospermia.
Age. After the age of 45, it is common for sperm motility to decrease as part of the aging process, or as a consequence of prostate enlargement.
Incomplete liquefaction of semen. It is a condition caused by a lack of prostate enzymes. Liquefaction is a process in which the semen becomes more liquid and less viscous, and usually occurs after 15 to 20 minutes. When this process is altered, it affects the sperm´s mobility and concentration.
Chromosomal abnormalities. Among the chromosomal abnormalities that affect sperm we find Klinefelter syndrome, in which the man has an additional X chromosome, so he does not produce sperm, or produces them in few quantities and with defects that affect mobility. Also, many men with azoospermia and oligospermia have a chromosomal rearrangement.
Environmental and lifestyle factors, such as exposure to toxic agents such as fertilizers or chemical solvents, or excessive consumption of alcohol or other drugs (tobacco, marijuana, etc.).
Cystic fibrosis. It is an inherited condition that usually affects the pancreas and lungs, but can also occur in the reproductive system and cause asthenospermia or obstructive azoospermia.
Infections that affect the seminal fluid. Diseases that affect the male reproductive system can alter the ability of sperm to fertilize the egg. Infections of the urethra, prostate, ejaculatory ducts, seminal vesicles, epididymis, vas deferens, and testicles caused by sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea or chlamydia can cause orchitis, epididymitis, prostatitis, or vesiculitis seminalis.
Scrotal hyperthermia. It´s an increase in temperature in the scrotum, which is, the sac that surrounds the testicles and that alters the semen´s quality. Diseases such as varicocele can cause testicular hyperthermia, but the use of tight clothing, prolonged exposure to heat, the use of laptops resting on the scrotal area and incomplete descent of the testicles are also common causes.
Bad nutrition. A poor or unhealthy diet can affect the mobility of sperm.
Teratozoospermia. Alterations in sperm morphology can also affect their mobility and, therefore, fertilization.
Cancer treatments. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy often cause conditions such as teratozoospermia, especially when there is a tumor in the stomach, prostate or testicles, in which case healthy sperm could stop being produced, or even a complete stop on its production.
Treatment for asthenozoospermia
The treatment of asthenozoospermia depends on its severity. In mild cases, the specialist may recommend changes in lifestyle such as avoiding exposure to toxins, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, consuming a balanced diet and vitamin supplements with zinc and antioxidants to stimulate sperm mobility.
Pharmacological treatment is recommended in cases of asthenozoospermia caused by sperm factors.
However, in severe cases of asthenozoospermia, the most viable option is to resort to assisted reproduction solutions to achieve the long awaited pregnancy.