One in eight couples have trouble conceiving, and male fertility issues account for about one-third of these cases. Another one-third is attributed to female fertility issues, and the last third is often due to a combination of both male and female fertility issues.
To analyze male fertility, your doctor will likely perform a semen analysis. A semen analysis should be conducted in a specialized fertility lab, which is usually part of a fertility center. The semen analysis focuses on three important sperm parameters – sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology.
This blog focuses on the impact of sperm motility and its effects on male fertility.
The Importance of Sperm Motility
Sperm motility refers to how well sperm can move. Sperm motility is critical because the sperm must travel through the woman’s reproductive tract to reach the egg. Typically, at least 40% of the sperm should be motile. If you have poor sperm motility, the chances of getting your partner pregnant through natural conception are lower.
Potential Causes of Poor Sperm Motility
The causes of poor or low sperm motility can vary, and in some instances, no cause can be identified. But here are some of the things that may impair sperm motility.
There are two main players in oxidative stress: free radicals and antioxidants. Free radicals bounce around in your body like a pinball – they’re a little unstable and can easily react with other molecules. Although your body needs some free radicals to carry out essential processes, antioxidants step in to keep them in check. Antioxidants help stabilize free radicals to keep your cells and tissues healthy. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body.
Oxidative stress is linked to poor sperm motility and male fertility issues. Research suggests that 30 to 80% of male infertility cases are related to the effects of oxidative stress on sperm.
A varicocele is when veins become enlarged inside the scrotum. Most men with a varicocele do not have any symptoms, but some may experience discomfort. Varicoceles have been linked to increased oxidative stress, sperm DNA damage, and male fertility issues. Varicoceles can usually be corrected with minor surgery, which can help improve fertility and support healthy semen quality.
Several studies have linked cigarette smoking to lower sperm motility, sperm count, and sperm morphology. Smoking may increase oxidative stress in semen and can lead to sperm DNA damage and genetically abnormal sperm.
Regular exposure to extreme heat can affect sperm quality. Testicles are typically a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body, which helps support healthy sperm production. Although the benefits of wearing boxers versus briefs have never been proven, research suggests hot tubs and long hot baths may not be the best idea if you have fertility concerns. Extended use of a laptop directly on your lap is also not recommended.
Nutrition and Lifestyle Choices to Promote Sperm Motility
Several lifestyle factors can affect oxidative stress, sperm function, and male fertility. Here are some tips.
Eat Healthy Foods
Focus on eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Drink when you’re thirsty to make sure you stay well-hydrated. Water, unsweetened tea, low-fat milk are great options – try to limit sugar-sweetened beverages. What you eat and drink can support healthy sperm function, motility, and male fertility.
Stay Physically Active
Physical activity and moderate exercise may help support healthy sperm quality. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (walking, running, cycling, swimming, etc.) each day.
If you smoke cigarettes, now is the time to stop. Chemicals in tobacco products may contribute to lower sperm count and reduced motility.
The effect of marijuana use on sperm function and fertility is unclear. Some research has found that marijuana use does not delay the time it takes couples to conceive. Other studies show that marijuana use can negatively impact sperm parameters and male fertility. Most experts recommend avoiding marijuana while trying to conceive.
Avoid Excess Alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol has been shown to impair healthy sperm. Most experts agree it’s best to avoid more than one drink per day.
Nutrients to Promote Sperm Motility and Fertility
Certain nutrients have been shown to benefit sperm motility. Be sure to get enough of these nutrients while you and your partner are trying to conceive.
Vitamin D is a hormone and fat-soluble vitamin with several important roles in the body, including male reproduction. Healthy vitamin D levels have been linked to healthy sperm motility.
Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Selenium
These nutrients all function as antioxidants. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps protect the sperm’s cell membrane. Vitamin C helps regenerate vitamin E, and these vitamins work together to support healthy sperm function. Selenium is a trace mineral that is thought to work with vitamin E to support sperm motility.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 is an antioxidant produced in the body. Small amounts are also found in foods like meat, fish, and legumes. CoQ10 is important for cellular energy production, growth, and maintenance. It also uses its antioxidant power to help protect your cells and support healthy sperm motility and morphology.
L-carnitine is an amino acid produced in the body and found in some foods. It helps transport fatty acids so your body can use them for energy and acts as an antioxidant to help keep your cells healthy. L-carnitine provides energy for the sperm and supports healthy sperm movement. Rich food sources of carnitine are meat, fish, poultry, and milk.