Sperm DNA Fragmentation


What is DNA?

The head of a sperm contains genetic building blocks, called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which are needed from the male to make an embryo and create a successful pregnancy. Within the sperm head the DNA is wound and twisted on itself and wrapped around blocks of protein known as chromatin.  Part of the role of these protein blocks is to protect the DNA from damage during the sperms’ journey from the testes to the female reproductive tract.  However damage can still occur to the DNA and it can become fragmented.

What is the DNA fragmentation test?

The DNA fragmentation test  is a method of examining the sperm head to look for any fragmentation of the genetic material.  The breakdown of this material can cause problems with embryos and may be linked to a reduction in the chances of achieving a pregnancy or an increase in the risk of miscarriage.

Who can the test help?

Patients who fit in to any of the following categories may be offered a DNA fragmentation test:

  • long term unexplained infertility
  • multiple failed treatment attempts
  • low fertilisation rate
  • embryos which stop developing
  • poor blastocysts
  • recurrent early miscarriages
  • men exposed to toxic chemicals or radiation
  • older men wishing to conceive

What causes DNA fragmentation?

All men, whether fertile or infertile, have some degree of sperm with fragmented DNA.  However, higher levels of DNA fragmentation in sperm heads may be caused by:

  • environmental pollution
  • chemical and radiation exposure
  • excessive heat exposure
  • varicocoele
  • infections
  • some cancers

What does the test involve?

The patient attends the clinic for a semen analysis as normal and produces a sample.  It is important that he is not suffering from any illness at this time which could cause a fever as this may alter the results.  The sample will be sent to another laboratory for testing  and the results are usually available within 14 days.

What if the test identifies DNA fragmentation?

Even if a man’s sample has a high degree of DNA fragmentation there are many factors which can affect the ability to conceive, so this should not be taken as the only reason for infertility, but may be a possible contributing factor.  However:

  • as there tends to be less DNA fragmentation in testicular sperm than in ejaculated sperm it may be worth considering undergoing a surgical sperm recovery
  • treatment with anti-oxidants such as Zinc, Vitamin C and Vitamin E may be effective
  • if fertilisation has previously been a problem, using ICSI instead of IVF may increase the number of embryos

What next?

To discuss DNA fragmentation further, please speak to a member of the clinical team who will be happy to provide more information.


The sperm DNA fragmentation test is a stand alone cost and no other investigation, treatment or preservation service is included in the cost.

Cost of sperm DNA fragmentation test at Midland Fertility: £395.00

Go to the Cost Estimator©

More information

Go to the Patient Treatment Information page and download the following infosheets:

  • Private Sperm Analysis
  • Surgical Sperm Retrieval
  • ICSI

Visit the sperm DNA fragmentation testing laboratory website:

LU: 9/5/16/JAA