Is All Hope Lost With Low Sperm Count?
Male factor infertility affects 9% of men and 1 in 3 infertile couples. Unsurprisingly, low sperm count creates the biggest buzz. With insufficient high-quality sperm to get to the egg, the chances of having a child become slim. The question then arises: is getting pregnant with low sperm count possible? The short answer is yes, but with a little help. Luckily, advanced techniques like intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) give men a fighting chance.
Why sperm count matters
Unlike women who have a set number of eggs throughout a lifetime, men produce millions of sperm from birth onward. The average sperm count should be 15 million-200 million per milliliter of sperm. Sperm count is a big deal, despite only one sperm needed to fertilize the egg. Without a high count, the chances of that one quality sperm successfully fertilizing the egg drop drastically.
Low sperm count? IUI can help
Even with cases of severely low sperm count, medicine has come to the rescue. IUI, or intrauterine insemination, is a medical procedure where a doctor manually places sperm in the woman’s uterus. The goal is to bypass the journey to the fallopian tubes, allowing stronger sperm to potentially fertilize the egg. IUI tends to be the first step clinics take in the assistive reproductive technology (ART) sphere.
Does IUI actually work?
Getting pregnant with IUI is possible, even with a low sperm count. But the lower the count, the lower the success rate. Research shows IUI done with at least 9 million motile sperm had a 17% success rate. However, once the sperm count dropped below 9 million, so did the success rates. Clinics will do everything possible to improve chances, such as sperm washing. But even with a high sperm count and prepped sperm, IUI success rates vary.
Turning to IVF for help
In the event IUI is unsuccessful, doctors often consider IVF a next step. IVF, or in vitro fertilization, involves a specialized clinic creating the conditions for pregnancy outside the body. A surgeon extracts eggs and the clinic fertilizes the eggs with sperm in a petri dish. Then the doctor implants the embryo in the uterus to attempt a successful pregnancy. This can occur over several cycles with the success rates increasing per attempt.
Sperm count and IVF
While in vitro fertilization is more invasive and expensive, the success rate shows promise. IVF has a higher success rate than IUI. IVF birth rates are around 25%, with varying degrees of sperm health. Digging deeper, IVF also requires a minimum sperm count for maximum success. However, success rates appear better with advanced IVF vs IUI for cases of less than 10 million sperm. Conception chances improve with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) for men with close to zero sperm. With ICSI, clinics fertilize the egg directly with one sperm. Choosing the right procedure depends on factors like the degree of infertility and the couple’s financial means.
The bottom line? IUI and IVF can help
With IUI and IVF, couples can get pregnant with a low sperm count. However, research shows IVF may work better than IUI in cases of low sperm count. Consult with a clinic for a fertility assessment. With the proper knowledge, the clinic will advise which procedure will bring the best results.