What’s Healthy Sperm?
It is acknowledged worldwide, that having healthy sperm improves the chances of you and your partner falling pregnant. Healthy sperm are also important for the health of your baby. It’s never too early to think about boosting the health of your sperm. But its not just how much sperm you produce.
Your chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby depend on:
1. Sperm Count – this is the quantity of sperm. You need large quantities of sperm to increase the chance of fertilising the woman’s egg.
2. Sperm motility or movement: Your sperm need to move forward so they can find the egg.
3. Sperm shape: Most of your sperm should be the correct shape when they are viewed through a microscope. This is called sperm shape or morphology.
Most men don’t think about the quality of their sperm until they are trying to start a family. But since it takes your body 3 months to make new sperm, it’s important to be as healthy as possible before you and your partner try to become pregnant.
How do I know if my sperm are healthy?
If you and your partner are having trouble falling pregnant, your doctor may recommend semen analysis. This is because about 1 in 3 cases of infertility are caused by problems with the man’s sperm, erections, or tubes that the sperm move through.
Semen analysis involves giving a sample of semen to be tested in the lab for sperm count, shape and movement. Sperm movement and shape are most closely linked with fertility.
What factors can affect sperm health?
Sperm are created in the testicles. They travel through the male reproductive system and mix with fluid (semen) made by the prostate gland and organs called the seminal vesicles. They are then ejaculated during orgasm.
The quality of your sperm can therefore be affected by the place they are created – the testicles and that is where keeping your testicles cool, originated.
Your testicles should be a couple of degrees cooler than body temperature to keep producing good quality sperm. In fact this is so important that research has suggested that just a 1degree increase in heat in the testicles can reduce fertility through poor sperm health by up to 14%
What else affects sperm health?
As well as keeping your testicles cool there are a range of other factors that can contribute to sperm health.
Age: Men over 40 have fewer healthy sperm than younger men.
Smoking: Smoking lowers your sperm count and the amount of semen you produce. The more you smoke, the lower the quality of your sperm. Even smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes a day affects your sperm health.
Being overweight: If you are overweight or obese, you are likely to have a lower sperm count and sperm that don’t move as well.
Alcohol: Heavy drinking reduces the quality of your sperm. Having the occasional drink is OK though.
STIs: Having a sexually transmitted infection like gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis or warts can block the tubes in your reproductive system so the sperm can’t move out of the testicles and into the semen.
Drugs: Medications and illegal drugs can affect your ability to produce sperm. If you are being treated for cancer, you might consider storing sperm for later. Taking anabolic steroids stops sperm production. It can take 1 to 2 years after you stop the steroids before you can make sperm again.
Environmental and occupational hazards: Toxic products such as pesticides, chemicals, radiation and heavy metals can affect the quantity and quality of your sperm. It’s best to avoid exposure before you try to become a father. If your work brings you into contact with toxic substances, make sure you – and your employer – strictly follow occupational health and safety rules.