Reviewed by Disha Arogya Dham Sansthan
Sperm motility is the ability of sperm to move efficiently. This is important in fertility because sperm need to move through a woman’s reproductive tract to reach and fertilize her egg. Poor sperm motility can be a cause of male factor infertility.
In this article, we look at the effects of sperm motility on fertility, as well as the causes of poor sperm motility, and what can be done to improve it.
What is Sperm Motility?
Sperm motility describes the path of the sperm. This can affect fertility.
There are two types of sperm motility, referring to the way individual sperm swim.
Progressive motility refers to sperm that are mostly swimming in a straight line or large circles.
Non-progressive motility refers to sperm that do not travel in straight lines or that swim in very tight circles.
For sperm to fertilize a woman’s egg through the cervix, they need at least 25 micrometers of progressive motility.
Poor sperm motility or asthenospermia is diagnosed when less than 32 percent of the sperm are able to move efficiently.
How Does it Affect Fertility?
Worldwide, approximately 60 to 80 million couples are affected by infertility, and rates vary from country to country.
In India, the rate is believed to be around 10 percent of couples. This figure is based on the definition of infertility as the inability to conceive after 12 months of trying.
Male factor infertility occurs when an issue with a man’s biology makes him unable to conceive a woman. It accounts for between 40 and 50 percent of infertility cases and affects about 7 percent of men.
Male infertility is usually the result of deficiencies in semen, the most common of which are:
- low sperm count or oligospermia
- poor sperm motility
- abnormal sperm shape or teratospermia
About 90 percent of male infertility issues are due to low sperm count, but poor sperm motility is also an important factor.
Due to low mobility
Various conditions affecting the testicles can cause poor sperm motility.
The causes of low sperm motility vary, and in many cases are unclear.
Damage to the testicles, which make and store sperm, can affect sperm quality.
Common causes of testicle damage include:
- testicular cancer
- testicular surgery
- an issue a man is born with
- undescended testicles
Long-term use of anabolic steroids can reduce sperm count and motility. Drugs such as cannabis and cocaine, as well as some herbal remedies, can also affect semen quality.
Varicose veins, a condition of enlarged veins in the testicles, is also linked to reduced sperm motility.
Semen analysis is the most basic and useful test, and it can detect 9 out of 10 men with a fertility problem. The test assesses the formation of sperm, as well as how they interact in the seminal fluid.
The sample is usually collected by masturbation. The man will be asked to abstain from sex for between 2 and 7 days before the sample is collected in order to increase the amount of semen.
It is necessary to ejaculate completely into the ejaculate container to ensure that the test result is complete.
The sample is usually collected in a private room of the doctor’s office or collection facility, although in some circumstances it may be produced at home. If so, the sample will need to be delivered for analysis within one hour.
The sample should not be kept in the fridge, and doctors recommend keeping it close to the body during transport to keep it at body temperature. This will ensure that it is of the best possible quality when it is analyzed.
Occasionally, the sample may be collected through sexual intercourse, either with a specially designed condom or by withdrawing before ejaculation. It is important not to use a commercial condom for this, as many contain lubricants or spermicides that can spoil the sample.
Samples may vary for a variety of reasons, including sexual intercourse and length of abstinence from disease. As a result, two samples are usually collected. They can be anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks apart.
If the percentage of progressive motile sperm is less than 32 percent, the diagnosis may be poor sperm motility.
How to improve sperm motility
Drinking too much alcohol, as well as smoking or using recreational drugs, can have negative effects on sperm motility.
There are lifestyle choices that men can make that will help improve the quality of their sperm. Smoking can reduce fertility and has been shown to affect sperm motility.
Recreational drugs, including cannabis, amphetamines, and opiates, and excessive alcohol consumption also reduce sperm quality. Doctors are advised that they are trying to conceive.
Being overweight with a body mass index of 25 or higher can affect both the quality and quantity of sperm.
There is a link between an increase in the temperature of the scrotum and a decrease in sperm quality. The ideal, sperm-producing temperature is around 94 degrees Fahrenheit, or below body temperature, so wearing loose-fitting underwear and taking simple steps to keep the testicles cool can help.
Helpful steps include taking regular breaks when working in a hot environment, and getting up and moving around when a person has been sitting for long periods of time.
There is no evidence that complementary therapies are effective at improving sperm motility.
Poor sperm motility can cause male infertility, but treatments are available. Some options include:
Anyone who has been unsuccessful in conceiving for more than 12 months is advised to speak to a DAD Ayurveda doctor to check for any fertility issues.