For a percentage of couples who are having trouble conceiving, their infertility will be related to the man’s sperm. In such cases, ICSI – or intracytoplasmic sperm injection – will be offered as part of their IVF treatment. One of the most common treatments for male infertility, we look at five potential ways to increase ICSI success rates.

What is ICSI?

ICSI treatment involves the injection of a single healthy sperm into the centre of the egg to be fertilised. ICSI will be used for a range of male infertility issues, such as a low sperm count or poor sperm motility and can also be used when sperm has been recovered through Surgical Sperm Retrieval techniques. It is also often used to fertilise eggs that have been previously frozen or if donor eggs are being used.

ICSI will form part of a couple’s In Vitro Fertilisation or IVF treatment but instead of the embryologist mixing sperm with the eggs to fertilise, a single sperm is injected directly into the egg to maximise its chances of fertilisation.

There are also some key things an individual or couple can do to increase their ICSI success rates:

1. Optimise sperm health

The healthier your sperm before ICSI, the better the selected sperm will be so as well as any medication prescribed by your fertility clinic, there are steps a man can take to potentially improve their sperm quality. Keeping hydrated and eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, supplemented with multivitamins is a good place to start, as is moderate exercise and reducing alcohol consumption.

2. Don’t get too hot

To produce the best quality sperm, they need to be kept slightly cooler than the rest of you, which is why the testicles are outside of the body. To help maintain the optimum temperature for sperm to thrive, avoid tight fitting underpants and opt for looser boxer shorts. Also avoid over hot showers, saunas or sitting for too long in a hot bath and don’t sit down for long periods of a time but get up and move around.

3. Manage stress

Not only can prolonged stress affect your libido and reduce how often you have sex, but it can also have a detrimental effect on your sperm production. So, in the run up to IVF and ICSI treatment, it is important to take time for relaxation and proactively manage and reduce your stress levels.

4. Quit smoking

Smoking can have a dramatic impact on a couple’s ability to conceive. And for men, it can cause erectile disfunction as well as reduce the quality of their semen and sperm, including a lower sperm count. Smoking can also affect the normal swimming pattern – or motility – of sperm, reducing the chances of fertilisation.

5. Maintain a healthy weight

And finally, maintaining a healthy body weight can help you to produce the best quality sperm and so increase your chances for IVF/ICSI success. And this is because a higher body mass index, or BMI, has been linked to a decrease in sperm count as well as sperm motility.