You are currently viewing Abnormal Sperm Morphology and How Does it Affect Male Fertility?

Sperm is a type of male reproductive cell, also known as a spermatozoa or simply a sperm. These tiny cells are responsible for fertilizing a woman’s egg, resulting in the creation of a new life. Sperm is produced in the testes or the testicles of a man’s reproductive system, and it is released during ejaculation.

Sperm plays a vital role in men’s reproductive health and fertility. Without healthy sperm, it is difficult or impossible for men to father children. The quality and quantity of sperm can be affected by various factors, such as age, lifestyle choices, and underlying medical conditions.

What are Sperm Abnormality Types?

Sperm abnormalities can be a major cause of male infertility and can impact a man’s ability to father children. There are several sperm abnormality types that we’ll be discussing:

1. Low Sperm Count

This is also known as oligospermia, where the number of sperm in a man’s semen is lower than normal. Normal sperm count is usually considered to be between 15 million to 200 million sperm per milliliter of semen. A low sperm count can make it difficult for a couple to conceive.

Sperm Motility

2. Poor Sperm Motility

This refers to the inability of sperm to move properly. If sperm are not able to swim efficiently, they may not be able to reach and fertilize an egg. Poor sperm motility can be caused by genetic factors, infection, hormonal imbalances or lifestyle choices such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption.

3. Abnormal Sperm Morphology

Normal sperm have a distinctive head, midpiece, and tail. Abnormal sperm morphology means that the sperm have an irregular shape or size, which can affect their ability to fertilize an egg. The abnormal sperm morphology range can vary depending on the laboratory analyzing the sample as well as the specific criteria they use to define abnormal morphology. In general, if less than 4% of sperm have a normal size and shape, it may be considered abnormal. These abnormalities hinder the sperm’s ability to swim effectively and penetrate the egg, leading to difficulties in fertilization. Factors such as genetic predisposition, environmental toxins, hormonal imbalances, and lifestyle choices like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to this condition.

4. Sperm Agglutination

This occurs when sperm clump together and stick, which can also prevent them from reaching and fertilizing an egg. It can be caused by infections or immune system issues.

5. DNA Damage

Sperm DNA carries the genetic information needed for fertilization and embryo development. If there is damage to the DNA, it can lead to infertility or genetic abnormalities in offspring. DNA damage can be caused by exposure to toxins, radiation or infection.

Morphological Sperm Abnormalities

What are Morphological Sperm Abnormalities Types?

Morphological sperm abnormalities refer to changes in the shape or structure of sperm and can be classified into three main categories: head defects, mid-piece defects, and tail defects.

1. Head defects

These are common among infertile men, affecting up to 90% of them. These defects involve changes in the size or shape of the sperm head, which can hinder its ability to fertilize an egg. For instance, a pointed, tapered, or small head may make it hard for the sperm to penetrate the egg’s protective layer, while a large or round head can impede its movement toward the egg. Some defects may also affect the acrosome, a specialized structure at the tip of the sperm head that helps it penetrate the egg.

2. Midpiece defects

It refers to changes in the structure of the sperm’s midsection, which contains important structures like the mitochondria that provide energy for sperm movement. These defects can affect the sperm’s ability to move and swim toward the egg and may include abnormalities in the number or arrangement of mitochondria, as well as changes in the size or shape of the midpiece.

3. Tail defects

It refers to abnormalities in the structure or function of the sperm tail, which is responsible for propelling the sperm towards the egg. These abnormalities can include changes in tail size, shape, or arrangement of tail components like microtubules. These defects can greatly affect the sperm’s ability to swim and reach the egg, ultimately hindering or preventing fertilization.

What Causes Abnormal Sperm?

Abnormal sperm morphology range can be caused by a variety of factors listed below:

  • Genetic defects
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Infections
  • Lifestyle choices

Genetic defects can cause structural abnormalities in the sperm, which can affect its motility and ability to fertilize an egg. Hormonal imbalances can disrupt the production of sperm and affect their quality. Infections can also affect sperm production and quality, especially if left untreated. Lifestyle choices such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and drug use can also have a negative impact on sperm health. Exposure to environmental toxins and radiation can also contribute to abnormal sperm production.

Sperm Abnormality Symptoms

What are the Sperm Abnormality Symptoms?

In many cases, there are no noticeable symptoms of sperm abnormality. However, some men may experience symptoms such as pain or swelling in the testicles, problems with ejaculation, or difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection. These symptoms may be caused by an underlying medical condition that is affecting sperm production or quality. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please immediately consult an IVF Specialist doctor.

What is the Sperm Abnormality Treatment Available?

Treatment for sperm abnormality will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. If the abnormality is caused by an infection or hormonal imbalance, medication may be prescribed to treat the underlying condition. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct structural abnormalities in the reproductive system. Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy weight can also improve sperm health. In cases where infertility is a concern, assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI) may be recommended.


To reduce sperm abnormalities, you can make lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding exposure to environmental toxins, and eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals.

About 1 in 3 men experience some form of sperm abnormality, ranging from minor issues with sperm shape or motility to more severe problems with sperm count or morphology.

Not all sperm abnormalities lead to infertility, and many men with abnormal sperm can still father children with the help of assisted reproductive technologies like IVF.

Various factors contribute to abnormal sperm morphology, including genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, environmental toxins, and lifestyle choices like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

Yes, abnormal sperm morphology can be diagnosed through a semen analysis, where a high percentage of abnormally shaped sperm indicates the condition.

Dr Atishay Jain

Dr. Atishay Jain is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist, fertility specialist and advanced Gynae Laparoscopic Surgeon with an experience of performing more than 1000 advanced laparoscopic surgeries. He is the co-director of Asian Institute of infertility management and Asian women’s center.