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What Causes Unexplained Infertility in Men? Damaged DNA in Sperm

unexplained infertility in males Damaged Sperm

Most men have some DNA damage in their sperm, and can still get their partners pregnant. (image by David Boyle, flickr)

Almost 30% of couples who can’t get pregnant don’t know why (diagnosis: unexplained infertility). New research shows one possible cause of unexplained infertility in men: DNA damage in individual sperm.

About 50,000 couples in the UK require fertility treatments every; worldwide, about one million couples need help getting pregnant.

“With one million couples worldwide requiring fertility treatment, these new research findings will give many fresh hope of having a family,” says Professor Sheena Lewis of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast.


If you’ve been diagnosed with unexplained infertility, you might try alternative therapies to increase your chances of getting pregnant, such as acupuncture for fertility. Talk to your health care provider about how to care for damaged DNA in sperm – which is one possible cause of unexplained infertility.

Keep reading books like Before Your Pregnancy – A 90-Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception. It’s important to start preparing your body for conception and pregnancy – even for men!

And, here’s the research information about sperm damage that may help you figure out how to get pregnant.

Research on Unexplained Infertility in Males

“The majority of couples experiencing problems with fertility are able to receive an explanation for their infertility,” says Professor Lewis. “These causes range from low sperm count, poor sperm motility in the man to blocked fallopian tubes or endometriosis in the woman. Once the causes for infertility have been established the appropriate course of assisted conception treatment can be undertaken.”

If you suspect sperm problems are stopping you from conceiving, read 5 Foods to Increase Sperm Count, Production, and Motility.

Couples often invest a lot of time and money in fertility treatments, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI). This new research shows that there may be a possible cause for unexplained infertility in men – which can help couples find suitable fertility treatments. This can increase their chances of having a baby.

High Sperm DNA Damage May Cause Infertility




New research from Queen’s reveals the cause of infertility for 80% of couples who can’t get pregnant and don’t know why. Up to one third of these couples are diagnosed with unexplained or idiopathic infertility. This means that, using current fertility and health tests, neither partner has been diagnosed with any detectable problem.

This new research reveals that 80% of the 239 couples in this study who were diagnosed with unexplained infertility have a detectable cause known as high sperm DNA damage.

Also, this is the first study to show that the chances of having a baby after in vitro fertilization (IVF) is closely related to the amount of DNA damage a man has in each of his sperm. A little damage is normal in the sperm of men who are fertile. But if there is high sperm DNA damage (more than 25% of damage per sperm), then the couples’ chances of getting pregnant are reduced – even with some forms of fertility treatments.

The SpermComet™

This research was carried out using a unique test for male fertility called the SpermComet™.

“We at Queen’s have developed the SpermComet™, which is a unique test for male infertility that measures damaged DNA in individual sperm,” says Professor Lewis. “It provides all couples with specific information about the causes and extent of their infertility. This test can predict the success of infertility treatments and fast-track couples to the treatment most likely to succeed, leading to reduced waiting times and improved chances of success.”

Professor Lewis, in partnership with Queen’s venture spinout arm, QUBIS, has set up a company called Lewis Fertility Testing Ltd, which is already marketing the test.

If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, remember that fertility doctors and reproductive endocrinologists make mistakes. One fertility specialist can miss something that another could catch right away. Missed diagnoses and misdiagnoses aren’t necessarily because some doctors are better than others; it just means that different doctors have different education, experiences, and specialties.

If you’re not satisfied with your doctor’s opinion or diagnosis of unexplained infertility, you need to get a second opinion.

Are you trying to get pregnant? Fairhaven Health's Hormone Balance Bundle improves egg quality, encourages cycle regularity, and helps your body ovulate regularly.


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Source of the research about unexplained infertility in males: Queen’s research gives fresh hope to couples with ‘unexplained infertility’ provided by Queen’s University in Belfast.


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4 thoughts on “What Causes Unexplained Infertility in Men? Damaged DNA in Sperm”

  1. If new sperm is being created every 3 months, why can’t the damaged sperm be stopped or at least decreased? Is it genetics that causes damaged sperm, or the man’s environment/food/lifestyle?

  2. Fertility Centers of Arizona

    The damaged sperm can’t be “fixed,” but the healthy sperm can be identified, extracted then used. Couples who go this route will have to get pregnant through IVF, but the expense of IVF is mitigated by not going through expensive, time consuming and useless IUI procedured. Fertility Centers of Arizona is one of the few clinics in the country that uses sperm DNA fragmentation testing and when used during the beginning phase of testing, truly does reduce time to pregnancy, money spent on ineffective treatments and most importantly, the patient’s stress level.
    We have more detailed information on our website http://www.fertilitycentersarizona and there are a handful of youtube videos that give more information as well.

  3. This research didn’t discuss how to heal or fix damaged sperm. It may be a cause of unexplained fertility, but how do you fix it?

    Time to do a little research and write another article…

  4. Fertility problems can be overwhelming for many couples especially if there is no clear diagnosis. Thank goodness for websites like this that offer information on these issues. I hope that someday advances in Science may result in better fertility treatments.