Can a Man with Azoospermia Get a Woman Pregnant?

By (embryologist), (gynecologist), (embryologist) and (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 02/08/2021

A natural pregnancy is not possible in women whose partner has azoospermia, whether it is the secretory/non-obstructive or the obstructive type. However, when this infertility problem cannot me solved with treatment, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) offers a wide range of options to allow pregnancy through IVF techniques. Find more info about them herein.

Sperm aspiration

Obstructive azoospermia is characterized by an obstruction in the vas deferens, the tubes that communicate the testicle with the exterior. Men diagnosed with obstructive azoospermia do not expel sperm in the ejaculate, but there is sperm production in the testicle.

One of the options is to extract sperm directly from the testicle or epididymis, although little sperm will be obtained. There are several ways to perform sperm extraction and their names come from the acronyms: MESA, PESA and TESA.

ICSI is the ideal IVF procedure because only one sperm is needed for each egg to be fertilized. In addition, it does not require that the spermatozoa have good mobility, since it is the embryologist himself who introduces the spermatozoa into the egg.


Microsurgical Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (MESA) is used in patients with a blockage in the reproductive tract. Through MESA, a small incision in the epididymis is done to retrieve sperm directly from it.

MESA is a technically challenging procedure, and therefore the costs are elevated. For this reason, although it allows for a greater number of sperm to be collected in comparison to PESA, it is rarely the technique of choice.


Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA) is less technically challenging and invasive than MESA. Furthermore, the expertise required is not as demanding. It is done under sedation.

A needle attached to a syringe is inserted through the scrotal skin into the epididymis. The main pitfall of PESA is that needle insertion is done blindly. Thus, even though it is not so common, it might happen that no sperm cell is found.


Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA) is done percutaneously as well, as in the case of PESA. The difference between TESA and PESA is that the former is done in the testes instead of the epididymis.

TESA is the option of choice when none of the above are successful (MESA and PESA), and in cases where the problem is related to an absent or blocked epididymis.

Testicular biopsy

Testicular biopsy, also called Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE), is done using a local anesthetic and involves the following steps:

  • Using a scalpel, the specialist opens the different testicular layers until he or she reaches the testicle, where small pieces will be retrieved. On average, between 2 to 3 cm of testicular layers are opened, which will be closed with one or two points of a suture.
  • Once the biopsy is done or simultaneously, the tissue retrieved is examined microscopically to find spermatozoa, which will be used later for ICSI technique.

Although it is indicated for patients with obstructive azoospermia, it can be used in cases of non-obstructive azoospermia as well. In many cases, even if no sperm are produced in the testicles, still sources of spermatogenesis could be found. In other words, if the search is done thoroughly, sooner or later sperm are found.

In any case, the chances of achieving a pregnancy with ICSI with the sperm or few sperms found after a testicular biopsy in patients with non-obstructive azoospermia are low.

One should not forget that a testicular biopsy is not only the option of choice to achieve pregnancy, but also a diagnostic test that allows us to distinguish between non-obstructive and obstructive azoospermia.

Sperm donation

The procedures mentioned above can be effective in cases of obstructive azoospermia but are useless in males with non-obstructive/secretory azoospermia. In the latter group, if spermatogenesis is not recovered with different treatment options, using donor sperm recommended.

It involves doing an Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with sperm donated by a young, healthy man. Sperm donors are medically and psychologically pre-screened to verify their state of health and confirm that their sample is in optimum conditions for being used.

Choosing between IUI or IVF depends on the characteristics of the female partner, including age, tubal patency, etc.

The success rates with donor sperm are considerably high. However, on the other side of the coin, it presents a major disadvantage: the intended father will not share his DNA with the child. Children conceived with donor sperm inherit the genetic material of the donor.

Do you need donor sperm for your fertility treatment cycle? Then we recommend that you get your Fertility Report now to find the most suitable clinic for you. Our thorough selection criteria when it comes to recommending clinics plus your particular needs equal the best fertility center for you. You will receive in your inbox a detailed report with the clinics that we recommend for your particular treatment, as well as the conditions that they offer for each program.

FAQs from users

Is pregnancy with azoospermia possible?

By Victoria Rey Caballero M.D., M.Sc. (gynecologist).

Of course it is. Azoospermia means zero sperm count in the ejaculate, but it is possible to find them and/or produce them in order to perform in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The way to obtain sperm will depend on the cause of the azoospermia. In the case of obstructive azoospermia, a testicular biopsy will be sufficient to obtain spermatozoa. The embryologists analyze the sample under a microscope and look for the spermatozoa, isolate them from the tissue and prepare them for preservation by freezing.

On the other hand, if the azoospermia is secretory, it is necessary to differentiate between genetic and hormonal. When the problem is hormonal, it will be sufficient to apply the appropriate hormonal treatment to obtain spermatozoa in the ejaculate.

If the problem of secretory azoospermia is genetic, the sperm are not produced because there are chromosomal abnormalities or genetic abnormalities that make the testicular tissue abnormal and, therefore, it is hereditary. In this case, pregnancy will be achieved using donor sperm.

Imagen: azoospermia treatment by type

Is sperm donation the only option to have children if husband has non-obstructive azoospermia?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

If it is a case of untreatable or irreversible non-obstructive/secretory azoospermia, then the answer is yes.

In the most severe cases of non-obstructive azoospermia, obtaining viable sperm is highly unlikely. For this reason, the only option to have children with this sperm disorder is sperm donation.

Can sperm be found with a testicular biopsy if husband had a vasectomy 11 years ago?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

A testicular biopsy (Testicular Sperm Extraction or TESE) allows for sperm to be directly collected from the testicle, where sperm production takes place. However, after such a long period of time with a voluntary obstruction, it is likely that the organism has decreased the number of sperm it produces. The good news is that, since ICSI technique could work with just a single sperm, a woman could get pregnant with only few sperm retrieved after TESE.

In any case, one should bear in mind that it is possible that zero sperm are found in the sample after a testicular biopsy.

Is sperm aspiration possible after vasectomy to achieve pregnancy?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Yes, it is possible to retrieve sperm by aspiration of the epididymis or testicle after vasectomy. However, it may happen that no sperm are obtained.

Therefore, it is usually recommended to freeze a semen sample before undergoing this method of male sterilization. The frozen semen sample can then be used in the future if gestation is desired through artificial insemination (AI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Suggested for you

Throughout this article, we have read about the options an azoospermic man has to conceive in spite of this sperm disorder. Want to learn more about the different treatment options available? Click here: Treatment of Azoospermia.

On the other hand, we have made several references to testicular biopsy as a diagnostic test to detecting azoospermia. To learn more about the diagnostic tests used before rendering a diagnosis of azoospermia, read: How Is Azoospermia Diagnosed?

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FAQs from users: 'Is pregnancy with azoospermia possible?', 'Is sperm donation the only option to have children if husband has non-obstructive azoospermia?', 'Can sperm be found with a testicular biopsy if husband had a vasectomy 11 years ago?' and 'Is sperm aspiration possible after vasectomy to achieve pregnancy?'.

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Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
Andrea Rodrigo
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia along with the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Postgraduate course in Medical Genetics. More information about Andrea Rodrigo
 Victoria  Rey Caballero
Victoria Rey Caballero
M.D., M.Sc.
Dr. Victoria Rey Caballero has a degree in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Seville. She is also an expert in Health Informatics and Telemedicine from the UNED and has a diploma in Neonatal Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. In addition, Dr. Rey has a master's degree in hospital management from the University of Alcalá de Henares. More information about Victoria Rey Caballero
Licence number: 41/14915
 Marta Barranquero Gómez
Marta Barranquero Gómez
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduated in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH) in collaboration with Ginefiv and in Clinical Genetics by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH). More information about Marta Barranquero Gómez
License: 3316-CV
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
B.A., M.A.
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

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