Background: In fertile populations, little is known about the association between semen parameters and time to pregnancy (TTP).
Methods: Pregnant women from Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Paris and Turku who conceived without medical intervention were asked for their TTP (942 couples), and their partners provided a semen sample. The proportion of morphologically normal sperm and the multiple anomalies index (MAI, ratio of the total number of anomalies to the number of abnormal sperm) were centrally estimated. We estimated rate ratios for the occurrence of a pregnancy by a discrete survival model, adjusted for sexual activity and female factors affecting fecundity.
Results: Increasing sperm concentration influenced TTP up to 55 x 10(6)/ml. The proportion of morphologically normal sperm influenced TTP up to 39% according to David's criteria, and this association held among the subjects with a sperm concentration >55 x 10(6)/ml. For strict criteria, the threshold value was 19% normal sperm. An increase of 0.5 in MAI was associated with an adjusted rate ratio for the occurrence of a pregnancy of 0.68 (95% confidence interval: 0.54-0.85).
Conclusions: These results highlight the importance of sperm morphology parameters and indicate that the effect of proportion of normal sperm on TTP may be independent of sperm concentration.