Reproductive health can often feel invisible. Unable to be seen by the naked human eye, we often are left in the dark more or less with the true state of our reproductive health. However, things like our diet, environment, and lifestyle choices can have a profound impact on the quality and quantity of our sperm, yet we often do not realize it, nor can we tell if our sperm is “healthy”.
You may already know that there are millions of sperm in each ejaculation, and that each one of them has the potential to fertilize an egg. This means that the quality of your sperm is incredibly important when it comes to your reproductive health and your ability to conceive.
So from a reproductive standpoint, what exactly is “healthy sperm”? And how can you know if your sperm falls into that category?
What Qualifies as Healthy Sperm
Healthy sperm is sperm that is properly formed and is able to swim quickly and correctly. The number of sperm that are considered to be “normal” and “healthy” will vary from person to person, but in general, a healthy sperm count is considered to be anything above 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen.
In addition to a healthy sperm count, the quality of your sperm is also important. This includes things like the motility (or movement) of your sperm, as well as the morphology (or shape). Sperm that have a good motility are able to swim quickly and correctly, while sperm with a good morphology are properly formed.
Ideally, you want both a high sperm count and good motility and morphology, but sometimes one or the other may be slightly lower than average and still be considered healthy, and you'd still be able to conceive.
Things to Look Out For
There are a few things that can indicate that your sperm is not as healthy as it could be. These include a low sperm count, low motility, or abnormal morphology. A low sperm count is anything below 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen, while low motility is when less than 40% of your sperm are moving correctly. Abnormal morphology is when less than 4% of your sperm are properly formed.
Of course, you can't tell if your sperm falls into one of these categories just by looking at it. The only way to know for sure is to get a semen analysis done by a doctor or fertility specialist. This is a simple test that involves providing a sample of your semen, which will then be analyzed in a lab.
Plenty of insurance companies will cover the cost of a semen analysis if you're trying to conceive, but if yours doesn't, it shouldn't cost more than a few hundred dollars. And when it comes to your reproductive health, it's definitely worth the investment.
How to Improve the Quality of Your Sperm
If your semen analysis comes back and shows that your sperm count, motility, or morphology is lower than average, there are things you can do to improve the quality of your sperm.
One of the most important things you can do is to focus on your overall health. This means eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise. All of these things will help to improve the quality of your sperm.
In addition, there are a few specific things you can do to improve your sperm quality. These include:
It's shown time and time again that smoking does much more than just damage your lungs. Smoking cigarettes can also have a negative impact on your sperm quality. How and why? Well, science suggests that the nicotine and other chemicals found in cigarettes can damage the DNA in your sperm. This damage can then be passed on to your child, leading to birth defects or other health problems.
DNA fragmentation is a major cause of reduced fertility and is especially harmful to sperm. Studies have shown that smokers are more likely to have sperm with damaged DNA than nonsmokers, which doesn't just mean that it's harder for them to conceive, but that their children are also more likely to have health problems.
Not only does smoking damage the DNA in your sperm, but it also decreases the overall number of sperm you produce. So if you're a smoker and you're trying to conceive, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your fertility.
Limit Alcohol Intake
While you don't have to give up alcohol completely if you're trying to conceive, it's important to limit your intake. Heavy drinking can decrease the overall number of sperm you produce, as well as damage the DNA in your sperm. This means that your sperm are less likely to fertilize an egg and more likely to result in a miscarriage or birth defects.
If you do drink alcohol, it's best to limit yourself to one or two drinks per week. But keep in mind that even this moderate amount of alcohol can decrease the quality of your sperm, so it's best to abstain completely if you can.
Wouldn't we all just love to live a life without stress? Unfortunately, stress is a part of life for most of us. But what you may not know is that stress can have a negative impact on your sperm quality. Studies have shown that men who are stressed have lower sperm counts and motility than men who are not stressed.
So what can you do to reduce stress? There are a number of things you can try, such as yoga, meditation, therapy, and exercise. Find what works best for you and make it a part of your regular routine, so that you can keep stress at bay and improve your sperm quality.
Get Enough Sleep
You may not realize it, but sleep is just as important for your sperm quality as it is for your overall health. Studies have shown that men who don't get enough sleep have lower sperm counts and motility than men who get a full night's rest.
To improve your sperm quality, aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night. This may be easier said than done, but there are a few things you can do to make it happen. First, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to get your body into a regular sleep rhythm. Second, create a bedtime routine that will help you wind down before sleep. And finally, make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool to create the ideal environment for sleep.
Your whole body works in sync to produce sperm, so it's not surprising that exercise can have an impact on your sperm quality. Studies have shown that men who exercise regularly have higher sperm counts and motility than sedentary men.
So how much exercise do you need to improve your sperm quality? Well, it doesn't take much. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day is enough to see an improvement. And the best part is that any type of exercise will do, so you can choose something that you enjoy and that fits into your lifestyle.
Take Supplements, Multi-vitamins, and Antioxidants
There are a number of supplements, vitamins, and antioxidants that have been shown to improve sperm quality. These include:
- CoQ10 – Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that helps to protect your sperm from DNA damage.
- L-carnitine – L-carnitine is an amino acid that has been shown to improve sperm motility.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help to increase sperm count.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is important for overall health, and recent studies have shown that it can also improve sperm quality.
- Zinc – Zinc is a mineral that is essential for sperm production.
You can get all of these nutrients from a healthy diet, but if you're struggling to get enough, you may want to consider taking supplements. Just be sure to talk to your doctor first to make sure they're safe for you to take.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy
If your sperm count is extremely low, your doctor may recommend testosterone replacement therapy. This treatment can help to increase sperm production, but it's not without its risks. Testosterone replacement therapy can cause a number of side effects, such as acne, mood swings, and enlarged breasts. It can also lead to more serious health problems, such as heart disease and liver disease. So it's important to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits before starting any treatment.
These are just a few of the things you can do to improve your sperm quality. If you're concerned about your sperm count, motility, or morphology, talk to your doctor. They can run tests to determine the cause of your fertility problems and recommend the best course of treatment.
When To Seek Help With Men's Fertility
You can't see your sperm with your naked eye, and this is why it's important to seek help with men's fertility sooner rather than later. Sperm testing is the best way to assess your sperm health, and it can be done at any fertility clinic for a relatively low cost.
If you're trying to conceive and have been unsuccessful after several months, it's a good idea to consult with a fertility specialist. Male fertility declines with age, so it's especially important to seek help sooner if you're over the age of 35. The earlier you seek help, the more likely it is that fertility treatment will be successful.
As a general rule, you should consult with a fertility specialist if you've been trying to conceive for more than 12 months (or six months if you're over the age of 35). If you have a known medical condition that could affect fertility, such as undescended testicles or a varicocele, you should also seek help sooner rather than later.
This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.