How Do I Understand Sperm Quality?

5 Common Questions About Sperm Quality

Sperm quality is a measure of the overall health of sperm cells in the ejaculate. Sperm quality helps to determine their ability to accomplish fertilization.

When a couple is trying to conceive, evaluating sperm quality is often one of the first parameters investigated. Some medical experts recommend checking it even before testing your female partner, because evaluating sperm is less invasive than testing female fertility.

This article will be a brief overview of sperm quality and its relationship with male infertility.

What Does Sperm Quality Mean?

Sperm quality is a broad term and includes all the vital features of sperm cells. It’s different from the sperm count, because it doesn’t just give a number. Sperm quality helps to evaluate whether or not the sperm cells are healthy enough to fertilize an egg. When considering sperm quality, these are the characteristics that are evaluated:

Sperm Morphology

Sperm morphology is the shape or structure of sperm. Sperm should contain a head, tail, and midpiece. The overall shape resembles a tadpole. The head contains the nucleus, which carries the genetic material (DNA). The tail, or flagellum, propels the sperm forward.

Sperm morphology is considered normal if at least 4% of the sperm cells have the appropriate shape. If the percentage is lower, it’s called teratozoospermia. This may indicate a lower likelihood of conception.

Sperm Motility

Sperm motility is the ability of sperm to swim forward to reach an egg and fertilize it. For the best chance of conception, more than 40% of sperm cells in a sample should have normal forward motility.

Asthenozoospermia (inadequate motile sperm) decreases sperm quality and may increase the risk of male infertility.

Sperm Vitality

Sometimes, not all of the sperm in a sample are alive. Only a live sperm can swim towards an egg to fertilize it. Sperm vitality is a measure of the percentage of live sperm within a semen sample. Low sperm vitality may increase the risk of infertility.

DNA Quality

DNA is the “software” of sperm cells. During fertilization, DNA from the sperm fuses with DNA from the egg, so both sets of genetic material should be healthy to achieve conception.  If the DNA is damaged, it increases the risk of pregnancy loss (miscarriage) or may even prevent conception.

Increasing age is a major factor in DNA fragmentation. This is why the advanced age of parents (both male and female) may increase the risk of infertility.

Can I Check My Sperm Quality At Home?

Semen analysis is an excellent initial test for investigating sperm quality. It allows you to take a peek at your sperm’s count, motility, and morphology.

You can take a semen analysis test at home using an in-home testing kit. It may help to abstain from sexual intercourse or ejaculation for 3 to 5 days before taking the test to give you the most accurate results.

Does Semen Have A Role In Sperm Quality?

Semen is a whitish-grey fluid produced by glands in the male reproductive tract.

Its primary function is to transport sperm through the male reproductive tract and to provide nourishment for the sperm as they travel. It does not influence sperm production, but semen plays several vital roles, including:

  • It provides a sugar called fructose, which acts as a fuel for sperm motility.
  • It contains nutrients like zinc that protect DNA from fragmentation.

Semen quality may be indicated by its texture, color, and volume.

  • Texture: Semen texture should be slightly thick and not too dry. Thin or watery semen may occur when there’s too little time between ejaculations or if there’s a lack of nutrients.
  • Color: Semen is usually milky white or gray. Yellow or greenish semen may represent an infection of the prostate or reproductive tract.
  • Volume: The volume or amount of semen per ejaculate has a prominent effect on sperm quantity. Too little semen won’t be able to nourish the sperm or to transport them towards an egg for fertilization.

How Can I Preserve High Sperm Quality?

Healthy habits and lifestyle can contribute to higher sperm quality. For example:

  • Obesity may lead to infertility, so maintaining a healthy weight may improve fertility.
  • Eating a nutritious diet and being physically active are linked to higher sperm quality.
  • Smoking damages sperm quality and sperm production, so stop smoking to improve fertility.
  • Avoid recreational substances (like cocaine) that can harm sperm quality.
  • Keep your alcohol consumption in moderation.
  • If you suspect any abnormality, speak to a healthcare professional.

These measures help improve and maintain sperm quality. But some factors like aging can’t be controlled. Aging makes your sperm vulnerable to DNA fragmentation, which is the trickiest issue to tackle in quality maintenance. So, you may want to freeze your sperm while they are strong because you cannot always control your fertility levels.

This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Dadi Inc. makes no representation and assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained herein, and such information is subject to change without notice. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this web site or article with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician.

References

  1. Tomlinson, Mathew et al. “Sperm quality and its relationship to natural and assisted conception: British Fertility Society guidelines for practice.” Human fertility (Cambridge, England) vol. 16,3 (2013): 175-93.
  2. Colasante, Alessandro et al. “The aging male: Relationship between male age, sperm quality and sperm DNA damage in an unselected population of 3124 men attending the fertility centre for the first time.” Archivio italiano di urologia, andrologia : organo ufficiale [di] Societa italiana di ecografia urologica e nefrologica vol. 90,4