Sperm: what role does it play in your fertility?


According to Resolve approximately 30% of infertility is due to factors involving sperm.  When couples come into my office I ask a series of questions about their health history and we talk about test results that have been done.  When we get to the questions involving sperm many times couples are unaware of how this can be a factor in their fertility.

If couples have been tested at a Reproductive Endocrinologists office they most likely have had a sperm analysis but occasionally if they were tested at their general doctors office they may not have been tested at all, or not with the criteria that fertility doctors look at.

I’ve put together a brief description of what the technical terms is for each marker and their ideal values and a few ways you can improve your sperm markers as well.  

Motility:  This is the measurement of how well the sperm are moving forward.  This is obviously important factor so that the sperm can travel the sometime treacherous journey to fertilize the egg.  Greater than or equal to 50% is considered fertile.  

Count or Concentration:  How many sperm are swimming around.  The more there are the better the odds.  15,000,000 or more is considered a good count.  

Morphology: (Strict-Kruger is considered the gold standard)  this is the % of how many normal sperm there are.  Ideally sperm has one head and one tail, but poor morphology shows sperm with abnormal shapes; two heads, or two tails for example.  Greater than 4% or more is considered normal.

So what do you do if you get news that your sperm doesn’t meet all these markers?  

  1. Lifestyle choices: that have been shown to improve motility: Stop smoking tobacco and marijuana, stop drinking, stop your steroid use. Avoid hot tubs tight underwear and long bike rides.

  2. Change your diet:  Introduce foods that are known to eliminate free radicals and are high in antioxidants have been shown to help improve sperm markers.organically grown fruits and vegetables especially broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.  Essential fatty acids are a must (avoid farm raised fish i.e salmon) mackerel, sardines nuts, avocados and olives.  Sperm takes about 72 days to mature so we can do things to improve the quality of the sperm before it is ejaculated and ready to fertilize.  Dairy products should be used in moderation as well as sodas and drink only filtered or bottled water.  

  3. Supplements:  Antioxidant supplements such as L-Arginine and Pycnogenols have been shown to help with sperm markers.  These things take time so make sure to give it some time before you see any results.  

  4. Acupuncture:  Abnormal sperm analysis has been linked to tight clothing, hot tubs, and other ways that blood flow is being restricted.  One of acupuncture's main function is to restore proper blood flow, it also has the added benefit of easing stress a common experience of couples that are trying to conceive.  

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