According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, infertility results from a problem with the male in one-third of the cases. Typical diagnoses in male infertility include abnormalities in sperm health or function.
What Is Healthy Sperm?
When assessing the health of sperm, fertility specialists look primarily at three factors:
- Sperm count — number of sperm present in the semen
- Sperm motility — percentage of live and swimming sperm
- Sperm morphology — percentage of sperm with a normal shape and size
For a great summary of what makes a healthy sperm and the testing available for sperm analysis, check out this episode of IVF1's Infertility TV.
Factors That Decrease Sperm Quality
A low sperm count or a low percentage of motile sperm can have a negative impact on fertility. But even with a normal or high sperm count, there may still be problems if the sperm don't swim well, are abnormal, or if they carry damaged genetic material.
Some of the same problems that affect sperm counts can also impair sperm quality. Factors include age, smoking, hormonal imbalances, poor diet, or exposure to toxic substances.
How Is Healthy Sperm Tested?
Doctors carry out a semen analysis to assess the health of sperm. A common practice is to test up to three samples of sperm at different visits to the clinic. This helps make sure the analysis is accurate.
Ways to Increase Your Sperm Count
There are many ways to boost your sperm count range through lifestyle changes. Your doctor will direct you on how to take any prescribed medications, so we'll focus here on some natural ways you can boost your sperm count.
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Sperm Health
Here are some suggestions for simple lifestyle changes:
- Quit smoking. There have been over 20 studies on the effect of smoking on sperm count. These studies found consistently reduced sperm counts in the nearly 6,000 participants who smoked.
- Get adequate exercise and sleep and lose excess weight. Studies have shown regular exercise and adequate sleep increase sperm count and improve the motility of the sperm. A great explanation of the need to lose excess weight is included in this episode of IVF1's Infertility TV.
- Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and drug use. A review of studies on the most common unhealthy habits — alcohol, tobacco, and drug addiction — clearly showed these behaviors impair male fertility.
- Enjoy more antioxidant-rich foods. A review of studies in 2019 found a diet rich in antioxidants may contribute to a healthy sperm count.
Medications and Impacts to Sperm Health
Some prescription medications can interfere with sperm production. Usually, once you stop the medication, your sperm count increases. If you and your partner are trying to get pregnant, talk to your doctor about a medication's effect on sperm count before taking it.
If you're trying to conceive, it's important to be aware of these medications and discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider. Here are some common categories of medications that might affect sperm health:
- Antidepressants: Some antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can affect sperm motility and morphology.
- Antibiotics: Certain antibiotics can temporarily reduce sperm count and motility, though these effects are usually reversible after stopping the medication.
- Anti-androgens: Drugs used for prostate conditions or hair loss, such as finasteride, can impact sperm production and sexual function.
- Antipsychotics: Some antipsychotic medications can lead to decreased libido and erectile dysfunction, which can indirectly affect fertility.
- Calcium Channel Blockers: Used for treating high blood pressure, these medications can also affect sperm motility.
- Anabolic Steroids: Commonly used for muscle building, these can significantly decrease sperm production.
- Chemotherapy and Radiation: These cancer treatments can cause long-term or permanent reductions in sperm count.
- Sulfasalazine: Used to treat rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis, it can decrease sperm count and motility but often reversibly.
- Recreational Drugs: Substances like marijuana, cocaine, and opioids can have negative impacts on sperm health.
Supplements for Sperm Health
Some vitamins and herbal supplements have a reputation as a natural remedy for poor sperm health. To boost sperm health, various medications and supplements may be recommended, often depending on the underlying cause of reduced sperm quality. However, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional before starting any medication or supplement, as individual needs can vary greatly. If you decide to add supplements to your daily routine, do your research and discuss it with your doctor before starting any new supplements.
Get Your Fertility Tested
If you and your partner have had unprotected sex for a year with no pregnancy, it may be time to consider an evaluation for infertility. A sperm count is a good place to start. Connect with us to schedule your sperm analysis.