What Are Antisperm Antibodies?

Like the name says, antisperm antibodies fight sperm. It happens when the immune system mistakenly targets sperm in a man’s semen as an invader and damages or kills it.

Antisperm antibodies aren’t common. Both men and women can make them. They can make it harder for couples to have a baby. But it's rare for antibodies by themselves to make it impossible to get pregnant.

Causes

In men, an infection in their prostate or an injury to their testicles can set off an immune response when the sperm comes in contact with blood. This can also happen after a testicle surgery like a vasectomy.

Women’s bodies can make antisperm antibodies if they have an allergic reaction to semen. Antibodies in a woman’s vagina kill the sperm. That’s rare, and doctors don’t know exactly why it happens.

Should You Get Tested?

If you and your partner are having a hard time getting pregnant, your doctor may recommend fertility tests, including checking for antisperm antibodies.

For women, this can be done with a sperm immobilization test with a blood sample. Less commonly, your doctor may check your cervical mucus for antisperm antibodies.

With men, an immunobead test can be done on sperm. You’d need to masturbate to provide a sample of semen. Another choice is an antiglobulin reaction test done on blood.

Treatments

Not all experts agree that it makes sense to test for antisperm antibodies. Some say we don’t have enough evidence about the best way to help people who have the antibodies and who want to have babies.

For men, your doctor may give you medication to lower your body’s immune response. That could lead to fewer antibodies and raise the chances that your female partner could get pregnant.

For women, one treatment that’s shown to help your chances of getting pregnant is intrauterine insemination. That’s when your doctor puts the sperm directly in your uterus. This allows the sperm to avoid contact with antisperm antibodies in your cervical mucus.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on January 30, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

University of Utah Health: “Evaluating Male Fertility.”

S. Adam Ramin, MD, Providence Saint John's Health Center, Santa Monica, CA; founder and medical director, Urology Cancer Specialists, Los Angeles.

UpToDate: “Causes of male infertility.”

Actas Urológicas Espaõlas: “Antisperm antibodies and fertility association.”

International Journal of Fertility: “Treatment of infertility caused by antisperm antibodies.”

Methods in Molecular Biology: “Methods for direct and indirect antisperm antibody testing.”

Reproductive Medicine and Biology: “Diagnosis and treatment of immunologically infertile males with antisperm antibodies.”

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence: “Fertility: Do Not Do Recommendation.”

Middle Eastern Fertility Society Journal: “Zinc sulfate treatment of secondary male infertility associated with positive serum and seminal plasma anti-sperm antibody test.”

American Pregnancy Association: “Intrauterine Insemination.”

International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics: “Intrauterine insemination as a treatment of infertility in women with antisperm antibodies.”

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