Why is sperm DNA important?
You and your partner are each going to give some of your DNA to your baby. Sperm with damaged DNA can lead to fewer eggs being fertilized, embryos not developing as well as they should or lower pregnancy rates. Miscarriage is also more common.
What if the semen analysis is normal?
The first test for men with fertility problems is a semen analysis. This is the best starting point but it doesn’t tell you everything about your sperm. It can’t predict how well you will do with different types of fertility treatment. Recent research shows that there is little connection between a semen analysis result and the amount of DNA damage in your sperm. So, even if your sperm counts are normal you may have too much DNA damage in your sperm. This means that just because a man has a normal semen analysis, he still may not be able to get his partner pregnant.
We have unexplained infertility. Can the test help us?
Yes. We have published a study (Simon, Proutski, 2013) showing that 80% of couples who were previously diagnosed as ‘unexplained’ have sperm DNA damage. Knowing this can alter your treatment plan and give you better options.
We have had a miscarriage. Can the test help us?
Yes. We, along with other leading groups, have just reviewed all the scientific studies and found that sperm DNA damage is closely linked to miscarriage (Robinson 2012). The SpermComet test can detect whether DNA damage in the sperm is impacting miscarriage. If so, you can make changes to your lifestyle which could improve your sperm DNA.
My husband has had chemotherapy. Will the test help him?
Yes. Chemotherapy is also linked with sperm DNA damage that decreases over time. You may want to know if your husband’s sperm are back to normal before you try for a family.
Can testing for sperm DNA damage help decide what treatment is best for us?
The SpermComet test can guide to a more accurate diagnosis for the man and give unique information to guide your fertility doctor to the best treatment for you two.
How will the test help us?
If sperm DNA damage is high, it may be better to go straight to ICSI rather than IVF. You may also want to consider lifestyle changes. When your doctor has the SpermComet results, they will have more information to discuss which fertility treatment is best for you.
How else will the test help us?
The SpermComet test provides you with better information about your fertility, allowing you and your partner to choose the best fertility for both partners.
How do we get the SpermComet test?
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will connect you to your nearest Fertility Centre which provides the SpermComet test. You can also get the test without a referral through the Pathlab, London or through our own labs in Belfast.
Do we have to do anything before the test?
Just abstain from sexual activity for more than two but less than seven days.
How will we understand the test results?
We will send your results to you and your fertility doctor within 7 days of doing the test. You can contact us if you wish to have further information or make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the results with them.
What do sperm DNA damage results mean?
If there is less than 25% damage: the couple’s fertility problems are not due to sperm DNA damage.
If there is greater than 25% damage: these men have a higher risk of infertility and so are less likely to get their partners pregnant naturally. Also, IUI will be unlikely to work for them.
If there is between 26-50% damage: these men have a high chance of success with IVF.
If there is over 50% damage: these men have a high risk of failure with IVF treatment. If treatment is planned, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is more likely to be successful than IVF.
If there is over 50% damage and the couple has had failed ICSI treatment they may wish to talk to your fertility specialist about ICSI with surgically retrieved sperm (See Cork Fertility Centre’s recent success). Unfortunately, this is an invasive procedure but it may give a better success rate. If ICSI has failed with ejaculated sperm and the couple do not wish to have sperm retrieved surgically, the only alternative is donor sperm.
How can you improve your fertility by taking food supplements?
There is increasing evidence that antioxidant supplementation in subfertile males may improve the outcomes of live birth and pregnancy rate for subfertile couples undergoing ART cycles (Cochrane antioxidant review). The important point is to take the SpermComet test before you start taking vitamins to make sure you need them. Otherwise, they may do more harm than good.
Does smoking affect male fertility?
Yes, smoking is bad for our health and bad for our sperm and eggs.
Does alcohol affect male fertility?
There are conflicting messages in the latest research. One study (Jensen et al, 2014) reports that moderate alcohol intake is not adversely associated with semen quality in healthy men. The latest study from the same research group reports the opposite – even drinking just five units of alcohol every week could reduce the quality of a man’s sperm (Jensen et al, 2014)
Do recreational drugs affect male fertility?
I sometimes have a problem with vaginal dryness. Is it OK to use lubricants?
No. Be very careful about what you use. We published a paper about this (Anderson et al 1998) showing that although some lubricants are not spermacidal they can reduce sperm motility and this will reduce your chances of getting pregnant.