How to Have Healthy Sperm
If you and your partner are planning a pregnancy, you might be wondering about the health of your sperm. Start by understanding the various factors affecting male fertility, then consider steps to help your sperm become top performers.
What determines sperm health?
Sperm health depends on various factors, including quantity, movement, and structure:
Quantity. You’re most likely to be fertile if you ejaculate the semen discharged in a single ejaculation — it contains at least 15 million sperm per milliliter. Too little sperm in an ejaculate might make it more challenging to get pregnant because fewer candidates are available to fertilize the egg.
Movement. To reach and fertilize an egg, sperm must move, wriggle and swim 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 moves.
Structure (morphology). Normal sperm have oval heads and long tails, which work together to propel them forward. While not as important a factor as sperm quantity or movement, the more sperm you have with a regular shape and structure, the more likely you are to be fertile.
How to take simple steps to increase your chances of producing healthy sperm.
Maintain a healthy weight. Some research suggests that increasing BMI is linked with decreasing sperm count and sperm movement.
Eat a healthy diet. Choose plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants — and might help improve sperm health.
Prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sexually transmitted infections — such as chlamydia and gonorrhea — are a cause of infertility for men. To protect yourself, limit your number of sexual partners and use a condom each time you have sex — or stay in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who isn’t infected.
Manage stress. Stress can decrease sexual function and interfere with the hormones needed to produce sperm. Stress may reduce your sexual satisfaction and impair your fertility (Study 1, Study2, Study Source).
One observational study showed that vitamin-D-deficient men were more likely to have low testosterone levels (27Trusted Source).
A controlled study in 65 men with low testosterone levels and vitamin D deficiency supported these findings. Taking 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 every day for 1 year increased their testosterone levels by around 25% (28Trusted Source).
High vitamin D levels are linked to greater sperm motility, but the evidence is inconsistent (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).
Get moving. Moderate physical activity can increase levels of powerful antioxidant enzymes, which can help protect sperm.
Note: Sperm can be especially vulnerable to environmental factors, such as exposure to excessive heat or toxic chemicals. To protect your fertility:
- Don’t smoke. Men who smoke cigarettes are more likely to have low sperm counts. Smoking can also decrease sperm movement and cause sperm to be misshapen. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Heavy drinking can lead to reduced testosterone production, impotence and decreased sperm production. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation.
- Avoid lubricants during sex. While further research is needed on the effects of lubricants on fertility, consider avoiding lubricants during intercourse. If necessary, consider using baby oil, canola oil, egg white, or a fertility-friendly lubricant, such as Pre-Seed.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about medications. Calcium channel blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, anti-androgens and other medications can contribute to fertility issues. Anabolic steroids can have the same effect.
- Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer can impair sperm production and cause infertility that might be permanent. Ask your doctor about the impact on your fertility — or the possibility of retrieving and storing sperm before treatment.
- Watch out for toxins. Exposure to pesticides, lead and other toxins can affect sperm quantity and quality. If you must work with toxins, do so safely. For example, wear protective clothing and equipment, and avoid skin contact with chemicals.
- Stay cool. Increased scrotal temperature can hamper sperm production. Although the benefits have not been fully proven, wearing loose-fitting underwear, reducing the time you spend sitting, avoiding saunas and hot tubs, and limiting scrotum exposure to warm objects, such as a laptop, might enhance sperm quality.
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