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Birthing problems can arise for many different reasons. It can take some time to conceive a child and more so it can become frustrating if you don’t know where exactly the problem does arise from. You go to your doctor and do everything right but sometimes that is not enough. Maybe there is nothing wrong with you after all but one of the reasons why you might be having trouble conceiving may be because of your sperm morphology.

What is Sperm Morphology?

By definition, Sperm Morphology is the size and the shape of the sperm. This is one factor that is looked into when testing for male infertility. It is a test that is commonly done to test the fertility of the sperm. Some of the factors that play a role in determining that are:

  • Sperm count 
  • Sperm motility 
  • Sperm morphology 
  • The volume of the semen 
  • Sperm concentration 
  • Sperm vitality or the percentage of sperms those are alive in the semen.

Determination of Sperm morphology includes the size of the head and the head DNA content. The appearance of the mid-piece of the sperm and the structure of the tail. The reason why these things are important because the sperm should be able to penetrate the egg in order to fertilize it and that is where the shape of the head plays an important role.

Evaluation of sperm morphology is done by subjecting the semen tests to meet the Kruger Strict Criteria. It can be understood by the following score below:

  • High fertility- over 14 % of sperm should have normal morphology 
  • Slightly decreased fertility- between 4-14% of normal sperm morphology 
  • Debilitated fertility- less than 4% of normal sperm morphology. 



What causes poor morphology?

Every male individual has a certain percentage of abnormally shaped sperms. This does not mean that the male individual is infertile; it just means that it will take a longer time to conceive and they just have to keep trying. The percentage of abnormally shaped sperm can be caused due to various reasons, some of them are listed below:

  • Increased testicular temperature 
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals 
  • Wearing tight pants and not leaving enough space to breathe 
  • Infections 
  • Genetic traits 

There are different types of sperm morphologies and there are almost all the types present in the semen of a man.

  • Normal Morphology- an oval head, intact midpiece, and an uncoiled single tail. 
  • Macrocephaly – a condition where the sperm has a giant head. They tend to carry extra chromosomes. 
  • Microcephaly- In this situation, the sperm has a tiny head compared to the normal size. 
  • Globozoospermia- In this abnormality, the sperm head is round instead of oval. 

More reasons like a missing tail or a head or a missing mid-piece can be present in the semen but as long as the percentage of normal sperm remains 14% or above, it should not be a problem.


Can abnormal sperm morphology cause birth defects?

The answer is no. The structure of the sperm does not affect the baby in terms of causing any defects physically or mentally. The only issue that can cause due to abnormal sperm morphology is that, depending upon the percentage and the density of abnormal sperms, the pregnancy can be delayed or not occur altogether.

The main reason for male infertility is a low sperm count and not the presence of abnormal sperm morphology however; it does play a major role in terms of conceiving. Nonetheless, with lifestyle modification, medications, intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in-vitro fertilization (IVF)/ intra cytoplasmic injection(ICSI) males with more percentage of abnormal sperm morphology can have a baby.


Having a baby is one of the most beautiful things in the world. But there are many reasons for it to get delayed or have the inability to have a child. In case of any problems, visit your doctor and find out the real reason and work on it as a couple. And if the chances are still slim to none, there are other ways of having a child, like surrogacy or adoption.


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About Author

Dr. Gunjan Gupta Fertility and IVF Specialist in Delhi

Dr. Gunjan Gupta

Gynecologist and IVF specialist
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Dr. Gunjan Gupta is a Gynaecologist with a specialization in IVF, Infertility & Laparoscopy specialist doctor and has close to 2 decades of experience in : Treating Infertility, Performing Gynae Laparoscopy (Keyhole Surgeries) Handing high-risk Pregnancies. She is a Member of Royal College of Obs and Gynae (MRCOG) of UK and has been trained in Laparoscopy at EUDGES (France).

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