Sperm Motility - How Does It Affect for Conception?

Sperm Motility – How Does it Affect Fertility

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sukriti Sharma (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

After hearing about accidental pregnancies from your friends, it is only normal to assume that getting pregnant is easy. Ask any couple who are trying to have a baby, and you will find out that the reality is radically different—getting pregnant is one of the hardest possible things when you really want to have a baby. Infertility issues prevent a couple from conceiving. Sperm health plays a deciding role in a couple’s ability to conceive, and sperm motility can impact the fertility of a man. Read on to know more about sperm motility and how it affects fertility.

What Does Sperm Motility Mean?

Sperm motility refers to the ability of the sperm to move forward towards the ovum. The sperm of a man should be able to move forward at the rate of at least 25 micrometres per second, for it to be classified as ‘healthy’. If the sperm does not move at this rate, the condition is termed as asthenospermia or asthenozoospermia.

The degree of sperm motility can vary greatly. The sperm may simply be slow or sluggish to move or have non-progressive motility. The latter means that the sperm moves less than 5 micrometres per second. In some other cases, motility issues also mean that the sperm simply does not move at all. Also, at least 40 per cent of the sperm in a sample must have the adequate speed mentioned above for the man to have ‘normal’ sperm motility.

Why is it Important for Pregnancy?

The sperm has to reach the ovum and fuse with it for the pregnancy to happen. Therefore, it is extremely important that the sperm is motile enough to reach the ovum, which is within the uterus of the female. In the case of poor sperm motility, the sperm does not swim well and eventually dies before they reach the ovum, which is why a couple is unable to conceive.

The man usually ejaculates the sperm near the cervical canal, when he has sexual intercourse with the woman. While he does not have to, sperm can even swim up from the vaginal opening to the cervical canal. The sperm needs to be near the cervical canal for better chances of fertilization. The egg simply stays within the fallopian tube, waiting for the sperm to reach it. Therefore, it is important that the sperm reaches it before the egg dies from lack of nutrients.

Sperm has to move through the cervical canal into the uterus and traverse it to reach the fallopian tube where the egg will be waiting to be fertilized. Even then, the sperm must be able to move into the ovum for the fertilization to be complete. Therefore, it is safe to say that sperm motility is one of the most important factors and has a direct say on whether you will be blessed with a baby.

What is Normal Sperm Motility?

All the sperm need not swim for normal motility, only around 40% of the sperm needs to be moving for conception to occur. This means that at least 40% of the sperm must be strong swimmers, before moving on to check the next factor.

Progressive motility is another important factor, which plays a huge role. This means that the sperm needs to be swimming from one place to another, rather than moving around in circles or in a zigzag manner. The benchmark for progress motility is 32 per cent, this means that at least 32% of the sperm in the sample needs to be progressively motile, for it to be considered healthy.

Finally, the speed of sperm is also checked. The sperm needs to be quick and moving in a straight path, for it to be considered healthy. If the speed of movement of sperm is around 25 micrometres per second, it is considered to be healthy, anything less than that is not great, and the sperm is considered non-progressive if the speed is less than 5 micrometres per second. At least 12% of the sperm sample must be quick, straight-moving, and progressive for the man to have normal sperm motility.

What is Low Sperm Motility and How Does it Affect Fertility?

By low sperm motility, it is meant that the sperm will probably not reach the ovum in time for the fertilization to occur. This is a leading cause of infertility among males who are trying to conceive. The sperm might be too slow, non-progressive or may simply swim around in circles and not in quick, straight paths. In any case, you will need to consult a doctor to rectify the situation.

What Causes Low Sperm Motility?

The causes of low sperm motility in men can vary. In some cases, it is genetic in others, it may be a medical condition or due to unhealthy lifestyle factors. The environment around him can also play a huge role in deciding the motility of his sperm.

  • Smoking is an unhealthy lifestyle choice that leads to low sperm motility. If a man smokes more than ten cigarettes per day, the chances of low sperm motility increase greatly.
  • Work-induced fertility issues are also common in some men, especially those who work in the military, or paint, drive or simply are subject to repeated trauma around the pelvic area.
  • Varicocele is a medical condition that causes the veins inside the scrotum to enlarge. It can also cause low sperm motility in men.

How is Low Sperm Motility Diagnosed?

To diagnose sperm motility, semen analysis is the best way. A man needs to provide at least two samples of the semen to the doctor, for him to analyze the sperm. The sperm can be provided either via masturbation or it can be taken from a used condom. The samples need to be handled carefully and need to be kept at room temperature always. It should be delivered within an hour to the office where the test is to be conducted.

How is Low Sperm Motility Diagnosed?

Medical Procedures to Treat Low Sperm Motility

Following are the medical procedures that may treat low sperm motility in men:

  • If the cause is low hormone levels in the body or varicocele, there are medical procedures like surgery or medicines to increase sperm motility involving follicle-stimulating hormone which can help improve the motility of the sperm.
  • If the sperm motility is not improving even after trying for a long time, a couple can try for Intrauterine Insemination processes to help get pregnant. In this process, the sperm is injected directly into the uterus so that they have to swim only for a short distance to get to the ovum. This is useful if the sperm motility is only a little low in a man.
  • If IUI does not work, you can always opt for In Vitro Fertilization. The sperm and the ovum are made to fertilize in a lab dish, after which the fertilized egg is implanted into a woman’s uterus. This has a higher chance of success compared to other methods.

How to Increase Sperm Motility Naturally

If a man has low-sperm motility, it can be hard for him to get his wife pregnant. But there are ways to increase sperm motility. Some of the things that your spouse can consider to increase sperm motility are as follows:

1. Eat well

Eat well

Eating healthy food can increase sperm motility. Processed meats can be bad for sperm health, whereas foods like dark chocolate, eggs, bananas, and garlic can be beneficial for sperm health. Make sure you include these foods in your partner’s diet.

2. Keep electronics away from your lap

Keeping mobile phones and laptops on your lap is a strict no, as they can affect the health of the sperm. The heat and the radiation are not good for sperm motility.

3. Wear comfortable clothes

The scrotum needs to be a few degrees cooler than the rest of your body. So avoid wearing tight clothing like skinny denim or underwear, and keep those sperm swimming well.

4. Quit smoking

Quit smoking

Smoking has been found to have a direct impact on the health of the sperm, so quitting smoking is a must. If your partner doesn’t smoke, then well and good, but if he does, you should ask him to stop smoking. It will be good for his sperm health as well as his overall health. Plus when you do get pregnant, it will be good to breathe fresh air and not have that cigarette smell in the house (it won’t do any good to you or your baby.).

5. Take Rest

A man needs enough sleep and rest for his sperm health and overall health. Men who have poor sleep patterns have been found to have low sperm motility, owing to a lack of testosterone. So, make sure your man gets enough rest before you get under the sheets with him and try to make a baby.

6. Exercise

When a man exercises, his body produces testosterone which is highly important in maintaining the health of the sperm. Hence, exercising is a must for improving sperm motility.

Sperm motility is an important factor for pregnancy. So you must ask your partner to try and follow a healthy lifestyle if he has low sperm motility. You and your spouse can also check with a doctor to understand more about sperm health and sperm motility, and what you can do to get pregnant.

Also Read: How to Check Male Fertility

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