Healthy sperm: Improving your fertility
Healthy sperm aren’t always a given. Understand how lifestyle factors can affect your sperm and what you can do to improve your fertility.
If you and your partner are planning a pregnancy, you might be wondering about the health of your sperm. Understand the factors that can affect male fertility — then consider steps to help your sperm achieve your goal.
What determines sperm health?
Sperm health depends on various factors, including quantity, movement and structure:
- Quantity. You’re most likely to be fertile if your ejaculate — the semen discharged in a single ejaculation — contains at least 15 million sperm per milliliter. Too little sperm in an ejaculation might make it more difficult to get pregnant because there are fewer candidates available to fertilize the egg.
- Movement. To reach and fertilize an egg, sperm must move — wriggling and swimming through a woman’s cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes. This is known as motility. You’re most likely to be fertile if at least 40 percent of your sperm are moving.
- Structure (morphology). Normal sperm have oval heads and long tails, which work together to propel them. While not as important a factor as sperm quantity or movement, the more sperm you have with a normal shape and structure, the more likely you are to be fertile.
What causes male fertility problems?
Various medical issues can contribute to male fertility problems, including:
- A problem in the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland — parts of the brain that signal the testicles to produce testosterone and sperm (secondary hypogonadism)
- Testicular disease
- Sperm transport disorders
Age can also play a role. The ability of sperm to move and the proportion of normal sperm tend to decrease with age, affecting fertility, especially after age 50.
April 03, 2018
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- McAninch JW, et al. Male infertility. In: Smith and Tanagho’s General Urology. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http:// accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed March 6, 2018.
- Men’s reproductive health in the workplace. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/repro/mensWorkplace.html. Accessed March 6, 2018.
- Anawalt BD, et al. Approach to the mail with infertility. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 6, 2018.