If you are over 35 years old, and trying to conceive using IUI, it is important to have both partners evaluated for fertility. It has been long known that fertility declines for women after the age of 30, but studies have shown that sperm viability after the age of 35 also declines, and effects not only the ability to conceive, but also increases the instance of miscarriage.
Researcher Dr. Stephanie Belloc, of the Eylau Centre for Assisted Reproduction in Paris, France, studied over twelve thousand couples undergoing IUI, and evaluated the viability of the paternal sperm. Most of the couples undergoing IUI, in this study, needed assisted reproductive therapy due to male fertility issues. The standard measures of male fertility are sperm count, motility (how well the sperm move to “swim” to the uterus,) and shape of the sperm. The researchers weighed these factors against the potential reproductive difficulties of the matching female partner to determine male infertility as a factor.
The male factors have never been studied this closely. In their research, Bellock and her team were able to make a direct correlation between the quality of the sperm used in each IUI and the resulting pregnancy and miscarriage rates. The belief was that as men age, the DNA in the sperm becomes damaged, resulting in fewer pregnancies, and a higher miscarriage rate for pregnancies that did occur.
Bellock says, "Our research proves for the first time that there is a strong paternal age-related effect on IUI outcomes, and this information should be considered by both doctors and patients in assisted reproduction programs."
This information may change the course a couple takes if one or both of partners are over the age of 35 and need assisted reproductive therapy. Rather than starting with IUI, which is far less invasive and expensive, couples may be counseled to skip IUI and go straight to IVF. During IVF, the outer layer of the egg appears to keep sperm with damaged DNA from entering the egg. And if ICSI is used (injecting the sperm directly into the egg,) the healthiest sperm are selected in the lab for use in the IVF cycle.
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