You may already know that the body produces antibodies to combat pathogens like viruses and bacteria. These antibodies help keep you healthy. However, sometimes the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own cells such as a man’s sperm cells. Anti-sperm antibodies are one cause of male infertility. The presence of these antibodies does not automatically mean that you cannot father a child, however. Consider talking to a male infertility specialist about your options.
Understanding Anti-Sperm Antibodies
As sperm cells develop, antigens appear on the outer membranes. These antigens are proteins and it is in response to the detection of these proteins that the immune system may manufacture anti-sperm antibodies . Under normal circumstances, the immune system never detects the sperm antigens because sperm does not enter into the bloodstream. The blood/testes barrier, which is comprised of Sertoli cells, prevents the sperm from coming into contact with blood. In some men, the Sertoli cells may become compromised and the barrier may be breached, which allows immunologic stimulation. This can happen due to infection, physical trauma, or chemical-related injury. It’s worth noting that women can also develop anti-sperm antibodies. Why this can happen is not well understood.
When a couple is experiencing infertility, one of the tests that a doctor may suggest is an anti-sperm antibody test. Women can be tested with a simple blood test. Men must provide a semen sample. Before getting tested, men must refrain from ejaculating for two days, but should not abstain from ejaculating for longer than five days before the test. Men will be given a sterile sample cup to ejaculate into and take to the clinic immediately afterward. The sample should be kept out of direct sunlight and at normal body temperature.
At the Center for Vasectomy Reversal, Dr. Joshua Green takes great pride in helping couples achieve their dreams of parenthood. He is a highly trained surgeon who specializes in performing infertility procedures in Sarasota. When you’re ready to take the next step toward becoming a father, give us a call at (941) 894-6428.