I decided to write a post about Morphology, as it is often the most confusing and misunderstood part of a sperm test result.
What is morphology?
As per Mayoclinic:
Sperm morphology results are reported as the percentage of sperm that appear normal when semen is viewed under a microscope. Normal sperm have an oval head with a long tail. Abnormal sperm have head or tail defects — such as a large or misshapen head or a crooked or double tail. These defects may affect the ability of the sperm to reach and penetrate an egg.
It seems that there are two different types of lab tests to determine what is a “normal” morphology rate. Some lab testing work within the WHO’s reference limit of a minimum of 15% normally formed sperm (i.e. a maximum 85% abnormal forms). Whereas some labs around the world are now using the Kruger strict scale, which works within a normal reference range of 4%-15% of normally formed sperm (i.e. a maximum of 96% abnormal forms).
When sperm test results come back with a high number of abnormal forms, it is common practice to get another test done in 4-6 weeks. Sperm results can change week by week, so another test will determine if there is a common problem, or if it will improve on it’s own.
You might have heard or read that there are links between recurrent miscarriage and low morphology, but this link is controversial and heavily debated. As always in the world of making babies, there is no evidence to prove this either way.
A good thing about morphology
The good thing about morphology is that it does not necessarily mean you cannot conceive or will have problems conceiving. Even with a low morphology rate, you can still get pregnant. This is because the result is heavily dependant on the rest of the sperm test results. For example if you only have 4% normally formed sperm and your sperm count is 100 million, then you’ve still got 4 million normally formed sperm. Of course it’s not as simple as that, and the rest of the results are of course linked, but you get the idea.
Is it possible to improve morphology?
This is another controversial area. Some say yes and some say no. Herbalists and Chinese Medicine will claim to be able to improve sperm quality, but again there is no proof that anything can be done to improve morphology specifically. The best thing that can be done is to improve the sperm count (which something can be done about), and in turn increase the actual number of normal forms.
Final note ( and a reminder … don’t panic)
I thought this was another good quote from Mayoclinic:
Even with abnormal sperm morphology, motility problems or a low sperm count, it’s important to remember that an abnormal semen analysis does not mean you are infertile. Many men with low semen analysis values are still able to father children. It just may take longer, a year or more. If you and your partner aren’t able to conceive through sexual intercourse, assisted reproductive technology such as in-vitro fertilization may be an option.
Have you had any experience of low morphology levels? Did you manage to improve them on your own? Did it cause you any problems TTC?