Photo: Richard Drew (Cleveland)
Photo: Richard Drew (Cleveland)

Semen with a low sperm count are Oligospermia not Oligoasthenospermia, Asthenozoospermia is reduced sperm mobility not Aspermia… Getting your fertility terms jumbled? Having trouble distinguishing your Hypospermia from your Azoospermia? We’ve broken it down for you. Fertility vocab training 101.


A Conceiving Man’s Abbreviated Glossary

Andropause a natural emotional and physical change that occurs in men with age and is caused by a decrease in male hormones.
IUI (intrauterine – or “artificial” – insemination) a tech- nique of injecting specially washed sperm directly into a wom- an’s uterus via a thin tube. The procedure is low tech and can be done in a doctor’s office. Cost can range from $500-$1500 per attempt including prescriptions, blood work, etc.
IVF (in vitro fertilization) a procedure in which the ovaries are stimulated with fertility drugs before eggs are retrieved from the body and joined with spermatozoa in a lab. After fer- tilization, one to three “good looking” embryos are typically inserted into the woman’s uterus. Cost typically ranges from $10,000-$20,000 per attempt.
Photo: Rogue Symmetry
Photo: Rogue Symmetry
Male Factor Infertility fancy synonym for male infertil- ity (NB: used this way, “factor” can also lend helpful medical weight to common terms, e.g. “beer factor belly”, “blithering factor idiot”, etc.).
Sperm morphology the shape or form of sperm cells.
Sperm motility the quality of a sperm cell’s movement (sperm with poor motility aren’t great swimmers).
Sperm Washing a process that removes debris, white blood cells, prostaglandins, and any dead spermatozoa from a sperm sample, giving intrauterine insemination (IUI) a better chance of success.
Varicocele a dilated (enlarged) group of veins (similar to varicose veins, which are most often found in the legs) in the scrotum (most commonly on the left side) which can look like a bundle of worms to the eye and tends to overheat the testicles.
Varicocelectomy an outpatient surgical correction of a vari- cocele.
Varicocele embolization a process as effective as a vari- cocelectomy, but requiring no incision to the scrotum and no general anaesthetic.

Win at Scrabble with the –spermias

(and Impress Your Friends!)

Aspermia: complete lack of semen
Asthenozoospermia: reduced sperm motility
Azoospermia: absence of sperm cells in semen
Hypospermia: small semen volume
Necrozoospermia: sperm that does not move (although it may be alive)
Oligospermia (even better synonym: “oligozoospermia”): semen with low sperm count
Oligoasthenospermia: oligospermia with decreased motility (motion)
Teratospermia (or!: “teratozoospermia”): sperm with abnor- mal morphology (shape)


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One last vocabulary word. As science fiction writer Isaac Asimov defined it: “A high-flown term to conceal ignorance.”

The word comes to us from Greek: idios (one’s own) + pathos (suf- fering). Put it together, and you’ve got a suffering that’s uniquely your own. This may be the most frustrating term you’ll encounter on this long and winding road. Your doctors will understand some causes of your infertility, but they’re not likely to understand them all. In this case your condition will be said to be “idiopathic”.

Feel better? Didn’t think so. Nobody wants a personalized prob- lem…but don’t be an idiot when faced with idiopathy:

Keep Cool.