Posted: 23 May 2016
Author: London Sperm Bank

A Crash Course on Sperm Morphology

Sperm Morphology! That’s an exciting word right? It’s the kind of word that conjures all sorts of wacky interpretations of transforming, self-combining, mighty-morphin’ super sperms!

So what’s it all about? Other than being a five syllable science marvel that might make good small talk on a dinner date* (*warning: not guaranteed to be good small talk), sperm morphology is a critical asset of a man’s sperm quality and his overall fertility.

So without further ado:

What Is Sperm Morphology?

It’s the shape, size and appearance of your sperm, and they can vary enormously from person to person. Some are big, small, fast and sometimes headless… but we’ll get to that later.

The attributes of sperm are assessed by our andrologists in our lab at the sperm bank on Harley Street. By viewing a stained sperm sample under a microscope, they can take a look and see what weird and wonderful characteristics your sperm have adopted, giving a comprehensive review of your sexual health as well as highlighting any noticeable abnormalities that could show signs of positive or poor fertility health.

After all, that’s one of the best reasons for becoming a donor: you get to know what your swimmers are really like in exchange for giving the gift of life to someone out there who really wants children!

Normal Sperm

Normal sperm have oval-shaped heads, an intact central or ‘mid’ section and an uncoiled single tail for propulsion towards the egg. It’s important to identify what the ideal sperm looks like before we can make judgements on what is ‘abnormal’ and what’s regular.

Regular sperm have good motility (they swim well and swim straight) as well as intact, healthy genetic information.

But of course, being that we live in the information age you’re probably wanting to know what the strangest qualities are that we’ve seen. You know: whether or not sperm can have super-powers and glow in the dark or something…

That’s probably a topic for budget sci-fi movies to cover (and niche ones at that…), but for those interested in the real morphology out there, here are 5 attributes that many sperm can adopt that you might not know about – even in healthy men!

1. Macrocephaly (Giant Head Sperm)

Macrocephaly is an abnormality that causes macrocephalic sperm. Jargon aside, this means that your sperm have really big heads. Perhaps this is to compensate for their creator’s egos or maybe a representation of vast knowledge? … Not exactly.
What we know is that sperm with giant heads have trouble executing fertilisation properly and carry extra chromosomes in their signature ‘melon heads’, making them likely culprits behind male factor infertility or genetic problems if abundant in your ejaculate.

2. Microcephaly (Tiny Head Sperm)

Contrary to the macrocephalic sperm mentioned earlier, microcephalic sperm are the opposite: they’ve got tiny heads! ‘Pin head’ or microcephalic sperm are sperm that formed without incorporating DNA into their own heads. Effectively, they are sperm that have such small heads that they’re too narrow-minded to execute fertilisation correctly. So as you can guess, microcephalic sperm aren’t much use either when it comes to fertility and procreating. The lesson is: don’t be small minded.

3. Headless

A bit like our tiny headed sperm only… Well, they don’t have any heads at all. These guys aren’t exactly the greatest contributors to your overall fertility either… Mainly because they left their heads at home…
Now. Before you get frightened that your ejaculate are packed with the rejected protégé’s of Charles Xavier’s X-Men, it’s important to bear in mind that on average only 4% - 15% of sperm are normal in a standard ejaculate. This means that it’s normal for the abnormal to be an overwhelming (if unseemly) majority – see? Nothing to lose your head over.

4. Two-headed sperm

Having two heads when you’re a sperm doesn’t make you twice as clever. In fact, the bizarre double-headed sperm is mostly incapable of penetrating an egg because it moves too slowly. It’s another abnormality that impacts male fertility – to be fair, they’re probably too busy arguing with each other about directions to the egg.

5. Multiple Tails

Often a side effect of Macrozoospermia (which is the general name for the condition of having abnormal sperm), certain sperm can inherit more than one propulsion tail, or ‘flagellum’. Whilst this might sound like a great thing (I know what your thinking: boat engine on a child’s tricycle, right?) it’s not as supersonic as it may seem.

Sperm with many tails also have Macrocephaly, meaning that multiple tailed sperm come with the same problems as their big-headed associates: their chromosomal makeup is abnormal and therefore results in failed pregnancies and miscarriages when meeting with the egg. Not so great.

So What Does This Mean For Me? How Do I Know That My Sperm Are Normal?

In every male ejaculate there are plenty of abnormalities. After all, there are on average around 2 and 5 millilitres of semen in a human ejaculate, roughly equating to about 100 million sperm (of which only 4-15% are considered ‘normal’ on average, so these abnormalities are surprisingly common). However, at the London Sperm bank we take care to look at more than one parameter; above and beyond morphology to determine suitability for donation (such as sperm count and motility).

They say a man is a lot like his sperm – so are you sleek-swimming champion? Or maybe just a big-head?

Next time you’re on Harley Street, why not stop by and find out if you’ve really got what it takes? Become a donor today!