On average, one in five couples have experienced unexplained infertility when trying for pregnancy, despite undergoing a full infertility evaluation. The emotional reaction to being told, “There is no apparent cause for your condition” can often be difficult, frustrating and maddening. Couples who do find out a cause for their infertility may find their situations difficult as well, but knowing the “whys” helps to make the diagnosis a little more bearable. In cases of unexplained infertility, however, many couples feel that one cause, one reason is lurking in a shadowy corner. Now, researchers from Queen’s University Belfast may have uncovered that reason.

According to a study published in Reproductive BioMedicine Online, researchers claim that they have found the cause of unexplained infertility for 80 percent of couples trying to conceive. They acknowledge that 50,000 couples in the UK and over 1 million couples across the globe are struggling with fertility, and many of them are taking fertility supplements in an effort to boost their chances. Over one third of these couples are told that they have unexplained infertility, meaning that doctors cannot seem to pinpoint a cause. However, researchers have found that 80 percent of couples diagnosed with this condition have a known cause – high sperm DNA damage. The new trial can assist these couples and better inform them of their treatment options, keeping them from wasting their time, money and emotions.

Another significant finding from this research is that it is the first trial to present evidence suggesting that the chance of conceiving after in vitro fertilization is directly linked to the amount of damaged DNA existing in the man’s sperm. A small amount of damage, or less than 15 percent of sperm, is typically considered normal. However, if over 25 percent of sperm are damaged, the chances of pregnancy are low, even if the couple is receiving treatments.

The evidence comes from over 500 couples and utilized SpermComet, a male fertility test. It is the most recent from a round of trials conducted by well-known fertility experts. Researchers also concluded that it was this test that allowed them to measure the damaged DNA in individual sperm and provide specific information to all couples pertaining to the extent and causes of their infertility. The researchers conclude that the test is likely successful in predicting the outcome of infertility treatments, can reduce waiting times and can get couples on track to the treatment most likely to succeed with their individual circumstances, although alll of these have to be repricated in follow-up studies before being accepted.