SPERM HEALTH AND MALE FERTILITY

So often the onus of fertility and infertility is placed on women. This is an interesting narrative, as the research shows that second only to female age, male factor infertility is the most common cause of infertility.

When looking at male fertility, the two most important aspects are the creation and the movement of sperm. When determining this, an important test is a semen analysis which looks at the health of sperm. The main parameters that this test analyses are:

  • Quantity (sperm count) – the more the better
  • Movement (sperm motility) – sperm need to be able to swim towards the egg to enable fertilisation
  • Shape (sperm morphology) – sperm need to be the correct shape to find and swim to the egg
  • Semen pH – semen is usually slightly alkaline to both protect the sperm and stimulate sperm motility, allowing it to swim to the egg
  • Semen volume – adequate semen volume is required to enable the sperm to swim towards the egg; too little or too much can both be a problem.

The health of sperm is reflective of overall health. Men generate new sperm every 72-76 days, and there are many interventions which can be used to improve sperm health. So whilst women are born with all of their eggs (though the health of eggs can also be improved prior to ovulation – more on this later), men are making new sperm every 2-3 months, and therefore have the potential to completely change the health of their future sperm.

There are several lifestyle factors which research shows can impact sperm health negatively. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Chemical/toxin exposure
  • Excess alcohol
  • Excess caffeine

In addition to addressing the above, multiple studies have shown that the following may improve male sperm health:

  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Ubiquinol – a form of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Note that the research on these nutrients emphasises the need for specific forms and doses, so working with a healthcare practitioner is essential to ensure you are taking these correctly.

A healthy body is a fertile body. 50% of the DNA which creates offspring will be provided by the sperm, thus improving the health of sperm improves not only the likelihood of conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy, but it also improves the health outcomes of the future children.

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