Schematic frontal view of female anatomy
- Normal healthy sperm have oval heads and long tails, which work together to propel them forward. The more healthy sperm you have with a normal shape and structure, the more likely you are to be fertile.
- To reach and penetrate an egg, healthy 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 more than 40 percent of your healthy sperm are moving.
Factors Affecting Healthy Sperm and Sperm Quality
It is well known that many men in advanced age are still able to have children. In general, the quality and quantity of healthy sperm decreases with advanced age. Furthermore, the DNA (genetic material that is transferred during insemination) becomes fragile with age and may be negatively affect pregnancy or cause several birth defects. In the same way, the healthy sperm quality in men younger than 21 may also be premature for pregnancies and associated with birth defects.
Prospective fathers should take up age-related fertility issues with a qualified fertility specialist such as a reproductive endocrinologist.
Have you ever thought about why the scrotum and the testicles are “hanging” outside the body and not like female eggs located inside the body? It’s because of the temperature. Healthy sperm needs a lower temperature compared to body temperature in order to function and mature properly. The temperature inside the scrotum is generally 1-2 degree Celsius lower than the body temperature.
Increased heat is a major enemy of a healthy sperm. Sources that may affect your sperm through heat may include:
- Laptop computer placed on the groin area for a prolonged time
- Sauna / Jacuzzi / bathing for prolonged time
A blow injury to the scrotum, if severe enough, may injure the capillaries and affect the testicle function and healthy sperm production.
Chemicals, Medication and Hormones
It has been proven that many kinds of chemicals, as well as medication and hormonal supplies will affect the sperm quality in men and may affect healthy sperm.
If you are taking any medication or hormone replacement therapies for a prolonged time, please consult with your treating physician for further information.
While many of the above mentioned factors such as age and external physical or chemical factors cannot be modulated or are easy to stop, diet is one major supporter of health sperm quality that can help to improve the chances of conception and male fertility.
- Coffee and alcohol have shown to lower the quality of healthy sperm
- Drinking over 1 liter of cola a day might decrease sperm quality by up to 30%
- Soy products decrease sperm quality due to the high content of phytoestrogens in men (increase the level of female hormones)
If you are suffering from male infertility and are not able to achieve a conception and pregnancy, you should consult with a fertility specialist for further work up and possible treatment after the cause of your infertility has been determined.
After the cause has been determined, the necessary steps should be taken to improve the sperm quality.