Having healthy sperm improves the chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby. The quality and health of the sperm can be affected by various factors. So, if a couple is having trouble getting pregnant, a semen analysis should be done to look for the health and quality of the sperm.
What is healthy sperm?
Sperm health depends on these 3 main measures:
- Quantity: The number of sperm contained in a single ejaculation is called sperm count. Fertility is most likely to happen if the semen in single ejaculation contains at least 15 million sperm per millilitre. The higher or more the sperm count, the higher chances for sperm to fertilise with ovum.
- Movement: In order for sperm to reach and fertilize an egg, sperm must move/swim through the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes. This is known as sperm motility. There must be at least 40% of the sperm in single ejaculation moving in order to increase the chances of pregnancy.
- Structure/Morphology: Normal sperm have oval heads with long tails. This morphology is able to help move/propel sperm forward.
A normal semen/sperm analysis results required at least 15 million sperm per millilitre with at least 40% of the sperm showing forward movement with normal shape/morphology.
What factors will affect normal sperm health?
Generally, the health of sperm can be affected by the factors below:
- Age: For those who are over 45 years old, they are likely to have fewer healthy sperm and also will produce less semen compared to their youth. Usually, the sperm count, motility and quality also might be lower.
- Overweight: Those who are overweight/obese are likely to have lower sperm count or sperm with lower motility. Being overweight also might affect the genes in the sperm that will be passed on to the baby as well.
- Smoking and alcohol: Smoking and heavy drinking will lower the sperm count and quality of sperm. Heavy drinking will lower the testosterone production as well that might affect erections.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STD/STI): Having sexually transmitted diseases that are not treated or partially treated will interfere with normal function of the reproductive system.
- Medications/Drugs: Certain medications and illegal drugs can affect the production of healthy sperm. For example, taking anabolic steroids may cause permanent harm to sperm production.
- Environmental or Occupational hazard: Toxic products like pesticides, chemicals, radiation and heavy metals can affect the quantity and quality of sperm. Thus, those who will be exposed to these toxic products during work should strictly follow occupational health and safety regulations.
- Heat: High temperature will affect the production of good quality sperm. Thus, it is best to avoid hot baths/spa and not to wear tight undergarments.
How to maintain healthy sperm?
- Exercise and weight loss:
- For those who are overweight, losing weight is the best way to improve sperm health. Studies have shown that weight loss can significantly increase semen volume, concentration and motility.
- Besides this, exercise can help to lose weight and boost testosterone levels. Thus, it helps to improve fertility.
- Avoid substance abuse:
- Avoid heavy drinking, smoking and illegal substance use.
- All of these will affect sperm production, quality and quantity
Take supplement /vitamins:
- Certain supplements/vitamins are proven to help with sperm production and fertility for example: vitamin D, zinc, ashwagandha, maca, L-arginine, Tribulus, CoQ 10 and so on.
Relax and minimize stress:
- Stress may reduce sex drive/libido and impair fertility as well
Eat healthy and eat more foods abundant in antioxidants.