Published: February 11, 2017

What Does Teratospermia Mean?

Teratospermia is a condition of male infertility caused by an abnormality in the structure of the male sperm. The abnormality, referred to as a morphology, may lie in the shape of the sperm head or with the motility of the tail. Regardless, the abnormality prevents the fertilization of the egg and is a common diagnosis of male infertility.

Genetic abnormalities are the most common causes of teratospermia and in vitro fertilization (IVF) is the primary tool used for overcoming infertility.

FertilitySmarts Explains Teratospermia

The morphology, or shape, of the sperm cell, is specifically built to complement the shape of the egg and the process of fertilization. A sperm cell is composed of three parts, the head that holds the genetic material, midsection, which contains the cell parts that create energy to power the last part, which is the flagellum or tail.

Ejaculated sperm need movement and the right morphology to penetrate the cervical mucus, swim up the female reproductive tract and penetrate the layers of the egg to fertilize the egg. Any changes or abnormality to sperm shape hinders this process.

Types of teratospermia include:

  • Macrozoospermia: a sperm cell with a large head and multiple tails.
  • Globozoospermia: a sperm cell has a large head and lacks an acrosome. The acrosome is an enzyme in the head of the sperm that allows it to attach itself and penetrate the layers of the egg.
  • Asthenospermia: a sperm cell with a tail that doesn't move, thus the cell is immobile.

The exact cause of teratospermia has not been found, but a hypothesis is that any disorder that can affect other cells of the body. For example, chemotherapeutic drugs and cell altering diseases such as Crohn’s diseases has the potential to cause abnormality of sperm cells.

Sperm cells that have physical abnormalities, but still contain the required genetic material for fertilization can undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) with a process known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) where a single sperm is injected directly into the female egg.

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