Difficulty Getting Pregnant? Try Testing Your Partner's Sperm

DNA fragmentation index indicates fertility treatment options


For couples having trouble getting pregnant, there are a variety of procedures that can help them conceive. New research indicates that testing the male’s sperm can be a valuable tool in the conception process.

According to a news article by United Press International (UPI), a new study shows that sperm analysis in couples trying to conceive can help doctors select the most appropriate fertility treatment to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.

This is a significant finding, considering the fact that about 12 percent of women in the United States between the ages 15 and 44 have trouble conceiving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to UPI, researchers at Lund University in Sweden found that sperm DNA fragmentation index (DFI) analysis helps doctors and patients decide between standard in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which can limit the physical and mental stress of using medical assistance to reproduce. Men with higher DFI have higher chromosomal breaks, which increases infertility, according to a press release issued by Lund University.

Unlike IVF, in which the egg is mixed with many sperm inside of a test tube with the hopes of a sperm implanting in the egg, ICSI involves selecting one sperm and implanting it into the egg, according to UPI.

"We hope that these results will mean that involuntarily childless couples are offered the most effective treatment right away," Aleksander Giwercman, a professor at Lund University, said in the Lund University press release. "Undergoing unsuccessful assisted reproduction can be very stressful -- both physically and mentally -- especially if done repeatedly."

According to the study, researchers analyzed the medical records of 1,633 IVF or ICSI cycles performed at the Reproductive Medicine Center at Skåne University Hospital between 2007 and 2013. The men in all of the couples had undergone DFI testing.

Researchers broke fertilization cycles into 4 groups based on DFI analysis, according to the study—DFI less than 10 percent; DFI between 10 and 20 percent; DFI between 20 and 30 percent; and DFI higher than 30 percent.

Data showed that the higher the DFI, the less successful standard IVF was. For men with DFIs over 20 percent, the chances of a live birth were significantly higher if the couple used ICSI instead of IVF.

"Traditionally the main focus has been on the woman in cases where couples have difficulties to conceive," Giwercman said in the Lund University press release. "But our research and experience show that it is important to thoroughly study both partners."

The study was published in the journal Andrology. It was funded in part by the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Governmental Funding for Clinical Research.

The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.