How Can a Sperm Test Save Us Money on IVF?
Anyone considering in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technologies such as egg donation has to consider the costs before going forward. They are expensive propositions, both in time and money. Each IVF or egg donation cycle can take 6-8 weeks and cost $20,000 or more, so anything you can do to increase the chances of success are worthwhile.
Before proceeding with these expensive and time-consuming procedures, you should consider boosting your success rate by improving the quality of your sperm.
Here are three key sperm tests and recommendations on what you can do based on the results…
The semen analysis is the first step used to test male fertility. It is a microscopic exam performed on semen obtained by masturbation after a 2-5 day abstinence period. It measures 4 main aspects of your sperm:
- Semen volume – normal is > 2.0 mL
- Sperm count – normal is > 20 million/mL
- Sperm motility (how sperm swim) – normal is forward swimming of > 50%
- Sperm morphology (how sperm are shaped) – normal is > 14%
Although the semen analysis has been used for decades as a general indicator of male reproductive health, it does not accurately differentiate between fertile and non-fertile men. However, if the test results indicate abnormalities, it may help determine the need for further evaluation.
Abnormal sperm tests should never be ignored. It is becoming clear that infertility is a proxy for other medical conditions including cancer, metabolic and cardiovascular disease.
Sperm DNA Fragmentation Test
In an effort to more precisely determine sperm quality a test to “look inside the sperm” at the sperm’s DNA was developed. Specifically, this test looked at the percentage of fragmented DNA within the sperm head. DNA fragmentation is usually the result of inflammation (oxidative damage) and is associated with lower pregnancy rates but only if the percentage of fragmentation is very high. The test is not recommended by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine since it does not predict treatment outcomes for most men.
Epigenetics – the future of sperm testing
Sperm is basically a delivery vehicle for a man’s DNA. DNA is organized into genes which control everything in our body including fertility. Epigenetics is the study of the switches that turn certain genes “on” and “off” at specific times.
Obesity, advanced paternal age, medical conditions and lifestyle choices can cause negative epigenetic changes in sperm genes leading to infertility. Sperm Scan, a new epigenetic test based on a landmark 2018 clinical study, can determine if you have epigenetic markers that can increase or decrease your chance of having a healthy live birth.
Men may be able to improve their sperm through diet, vitamin supplementation, exercise and lifestyle choices.