Antibodies produced by our immune system protect us against various illnesses. In the case of antisperm antibodies, however, they are directed against sperm cells, binding with them and preventing their movement. These antibodies are present in 7 to 10 per cent of infertile men and occur in nearly 70 per cent of men who have had a vasectomy reversal. Antisperm antibodies destroy sperm cells as soon as they enter the female reproductive tract, although less than 5 per cent of infertile women are directly affected by them. The immune system in our blood is usually separated from the sperm of the testes by a barrier. However, this barrier can break or become permeable in instances such as injury to or twisting of the testicles, testicular infection, cancer or biopsy, or vasectomy reversal. The immediate consequence is the development of antibodies wrongly programmed to destroy sperm, often resulting in infertility.
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Things you need
- Blood- or semen-analysis test
Schedule a blood or semen analysis test to identify, confirm and quantify the presence of the antibodies. Seek your doctor's advice as to whether you should take the Immunobead Assay or Immunobead Binding Test, the Mixed Agglutination Reaction Test or the Antisperm Antibody AB Test. These tests use antibodies that are attached to small markers -- such as red blood cells or plastic beads -- that naturally attach to sperm cells that contain antibodies on their surface. The results of the test will reflect the percentage of sperm cells bound by antibodies. The IBT counts the number of antisperm antibodies in your semen or blood. On the other hand, the MAR is exclusively for a semen sample. The Antisperm Antibody AB test is essential in finding out whether actual antibodies are present on the sperm cell itself and not in the circulating blood. The presence of both IgA and IgG antisperm antibodies are measured and detected on the surface of sperm.
Consult your physician about using high doses of corticosteroids to reduce the number of antibodies. Corticosteroids are also believed to deliver the sperm directly into both the uterus and the Fallopian tubes so that they can bypass the cervical mucus that may contain the antibodies.
Ask your doctor about using assisted reproductive techniques like intrauterine insemination. This involves the insertion of specially prepared sperm into the uterus during ovulation. This technique is considered effective for couples whose problem involves the cervical mucus containing antibodies. IUI is also less complex and cheaper than other methods.
Consider using in vitro fertilisation, as this method is said to be the most effective in countering antisperm antibodies. It is considered effective especially in cases where antibodies are bound to almost 100 per cent of sperm cells.
Consider combining IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection, which involves the direct fertilisation of an egg by a single sperm in order to treat antibodies and is usually the choice if there is still no fertilisation after one attempt at using IVF.
Tips and warnings
- Always ask for the doctor's advice before deciding on using any method, especially corticosteroids. Your doctor may prescribe a particular method or may present you with other alternatives.
- Treatment of antisperm antibodies usually takes four to six months to complete. Consult with your doctor throughout the course of treatment.
- High doses of corticosteroids used constantly for many months often cause numerous side effects, including weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, stomach ulcers and a thinning of the skin that makes it susceptible to cuts.
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