One out of every eight couples will have trouble conceiving, and about one-third of the time, it will exclusively be due to an issue with male fertility. Another one-third is generally due to a female fertility issue, and the last third is due to a combination of both male and female fertility issues.
To analyze male fertility, your doctor will likely have you do a semen analysis. A semen analysis should be done 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.
In this blog, we will focus on the impact of sperm motility and its effects on male fertility.
The Importance of Sperm Motility
Sperm motility is the percentage of sperm in the semen specimen that is motile, meaning moving or “swimming” properly. Typically, at least 40% of the sperm should be motile. Sperm motility is critical because the sperm must move through the woman’s reproductive tract before reaching the egg. If you have poor sperm motility, the chances of getting your partner pregnant through natural conception are low.
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 we know can impair sperm motility.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between reactive oxygen species (ROS) and antioxidants in the body. Oxidative stress is linked to poor sperm motility and male infertility. It is thought that 30 to 80% of male infertility cases are due to the damaging 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. However, some will cause pain. Varicoceles have been linked to increased oxidative stress, sperm DNA damage, and male infertility. Varicoceles can usually be corrected with minor surgery, which improves fertility chances.
Several studies have linked cigarette smoking to lower sperm motility, sperm count, and sperm morphology. Smoking increases l oxidative stress in the semen and can lead to sperm DNA damage and genetically abnormal sperm.
Heat in extreme amounts can damage the testes and worsen sperm quality. In general, the testicles should be cooler than the rest of the body. Although the benefits of wearing boxers vs. briefs has never been proven, we do know that hot tubs and long hot baths are probably not a good idea. Extended use of a laptop directly on your lap is also not recommended. A study published in Fertility and Sterility found that the heat from a laptop can reduce sperm motility and cause DNA damage.
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 enough water to stay well hydrated. What you eat and drink can have an impact on sperm function, motility, and male fertility.
Stay Physically Active
Physical activity and moderate exercise are thought to be beneficial. 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. 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 you stop using marijuana when 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 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 from damage. 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 and also found in small amounts in meat, fish, and whole grains. CoQ10 is important for cellular energy production, growth, and maintenance. It helps protect cells from damaging oxidative stress caused by free radicals. CoQ10 supports healthy sperm motility and morphology.
L-carnitine is an amino acid produced in the body and found in some foods. L-carnitine has antioxidant properties and it transports fat so that your body can use it for energy. L-carnitine provides energy for the sperm, and supports healthy sperm movement. Rich food sources of carnitine are meat, fish, poultry, and milk.
By following these lifestyle tips, you can promote healthy sperm motility and optimize your fertility chances.For more information, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @Theralogix! Don’t miss an article! Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll let you know when our next article comes out.