Guest blog by Professor Sheena Lewis whose research focuses on male infertility and in particular sperm damage DNA testing.
Of every one in six couples who is having difficulty having a baby: 40 per cent of the difficulty is associated with the man.
If you’re over 40 or are unable to get pregnant with your own eggs, donor eggs are often suggested as the best way to help you and your partner have the baby of your dreams. This is quite rightly your best chance but it is also an expensive and emotionally demanding journey and once you have made the decision, you want the very best chance of success. So what about your partner? What tests has he had to check his sperm quality? It would be such a shame if you overcame your egg problem but he still had an undetected sperm problem that still led to failure for you both.
Since IVF began in 1978, we have looked at women’s fertility from every angle but we have neglected the man. In fertility investigations, we often neglect the man and offer him only one test- a semen analysis. This simply looks at the number of sperm, how well they can swim and what they look like on the outside but those aren’t all that’s needed for a healthy baby. The most important part of a sperm is its DNA.
When it comes to sperm quality, conventional semen analysis tells us a little. The SpermComet® is a much more sensitive male fertility test that tells us a lot.
It’s the sperm DNA and the egg DNA that make an embryo and then a baby. If the sperm DNA is damaged it is much less likely to lead to a pregnancy and even if a pregnancy does occurs, there is a greater chance of miscarriage.
In our lab, our highly trained scientists have published research showing that 80% of men seeking fertility treatment have sperm DNA damage even when the normal semen analysis is normal. This more detailed male fertility investigation is often overlooked. And yes it is as easy to arrange.
Having a sperm DNA test before you start your treatment with donor eggs will give you more choices. Men are different to women- they can improve their sperm. Women have all their eggs in place by the time they are born and don’t make anymore, therefore these cannot be improved unlike men who make new batches of sperm every three months. So if the test shows that the man’s sperm are damaged, he can change his lifestyle and the quality of his sperm produce can improve within three months. Sperm quality can be seriously affected by things like stress, smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs, obesity and other avoidable lifestyle factors.
If the sperm DNA is still highly damaged changes will not be as effective and you may want to think about donor sperm or donor embryos as well before you go on your overseas journey.
Testing sperm DNA quality before you start your overseas fertility journey can reduce the waste of valuable time and financial costs and, not least, emotional heartache, which can be the most painful cost of all.
The SpermComet® is a much more sensitive male fertility test. It’s the only test that routinely measures DNA damage in individual sperm.