What Is Sperm Morphology?

How to Know if You Have Normal Sperm Morphology

The shape of your sperm cells plays an important role in fertility. Because of this, semen analysis includes an assessment of sperm morphology.

What Is The Normal Morphology Of Sperm Cells?

Sperm morphology is the shape and structure of sperm cells. In healthy semen, at least 4% of the sperm in the ejaculate have normal morphology. Less than 4% normal morphology may contribute to infertility.

A sperm cell with normal morphology includes a head, midpiece, and tail. Its overall shape resembles a tadpole.

The head contains genetic material (DNA) which fuses with the DNA in an egg cell during fertilization. The midpiece contains structures called mitochondria, which provide the fuel for travel. The tail, or flagellum, helps the sperm swim forward.

You can think of a sperm cell as a truck with a front deck where the driver sits. The midpiece is the engine, while the tail acts as the tires, helping the sperm reach the destination. A defect in any of these parts may affect the sperm’s function.

What Are The Common Abnormalities Found In Sperm Cells?

Abnormalities of the head, tail, or midpiece include:

Head Defects

The head is covered by a cap called the acrosome. The acrosome uses chemicals (enzymes) to fuse with an egg’s membrane to fertilize it. The head also contains the nucleus with contains the DNA. Defects in head shape may include:

  • A head size that’s too large or small
  • A head that’s detached from the rest of the sperm body
  • An irregularly shaped head
  • A tiny nucleus
  • A missing acrosome
  • An elongated, non-functional acrosome

Neck Defects

The neck is another name for the mid-piece of the sperm. A structurally sound midpiece contains rows of mitochondria. Examples of neck defects include:

  • An asymmetrical neck
  • No mitochondria present
  • A neck that’s bent at a 90 degree angle
  • A neck that’s too thick
  • Too much fluid (cytoplasm) in the neck
  • A neck that’s too thin

Tail Defects

The tail of sperm cells moves like a whip. It flaps to and fro to propel sperm cells forward. Examples of tail defects include:

  • A tail that’s coiled around the head or neck
  • Tail length that’s too short
  • A bent tail shaped like a hairpin
  • A tail with a droplet of cytoplasm near the end, which weighs it down and inhibits movement
  • Two tails
  • A tail that’s broken in middle

Which Factors Are Responsible for Abnormal Sperm Cells?

Many factors in your environment, lifestyle, or general health can impact the quality of your sperm. Factors that may increase the likelihood of abnormal sperm cells include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Recreational substance use
  • Environmental toxins like pesticides
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Varicocele
  • Stress
  • Advanced age

How Can I Improve Sperm Morphology?

Some things can’t be avoided, but a few guidelines to support your overall health may also support healthy sperm production. For example:

  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein
  • Avoid processed food with high calories
  • Wear appropriately fit or loose boxers and avoid tight garments
  • Stop smoking
  • Cut back on alcohol consumption
  • Avoid recreational substance use
  • Check your sperm health with a sperm analysis kit.
  • Preserve your sperm when they are healthy with sperm freezing technology