What Is Sperm Motility?

What Is Sperm Motility?

Many characteristics of sperm contribute to fertility. One of these parameters is sperm motility, or the movement of sperm. Motility allows sperm to reach an egg cell (ovum) for fertilization. Motility depends not only on the number of motile sperm but also on how well those sperm move.

Why Is Sperm Motility Important?

Sperm motility is crucial because the ovum cannot move on its own. Ejaculation happens in the vagina; therefore, sperm have to move from the vagina to the fallopian tubes for fertilization to occur.

How Do Sperm Cells Move?

Sperm cells have a tail, or flagellum, to propel them forward in their journey. They develop tails while they mature in the epididymis. Their motility is also aided by the semen that carries sperm out of the penis and lubricates its path to the egg.

From the cervix to the ovum, these sperm cells have to move independently. The tail propels it towards the egg so that it can fuse with it and fertilize it.

What Is Normal Sperm Motility?

Sperm motility depends on the pattern and speed.

The Pattern of Motility

Patterns of motility may be classified as either:

  • Progressive motility: Sperm’s ability to move ahead forward in a mostly straight line. This is the path a sperm travels to reach an egg.
  • Non-progressive motility: Sperm cells that moves in small, narrow circles. This type of movement doesn’t propel sperm forward, so they can’t fertilize an egg.

A decrease in sperm motility is called asthenozoospermia.

The Velocity of Sperm

The average velocity of sperm cells is up to 25 micrometers per second. It takes 5 to 10 minutes for a sperm to reach the fallopian tube from the cervix. Depending on the health of sperm, this process can delay or may not happen at all.

Does The Number Of Motile Sperm Matter?

Yes, it does. For the best chance of conception, at least 40% of your sperm should be motile. However, this isn’t always the case. Some people with lower motility are still able to conceive, and some people with normal motility can’t conceive. This is because fertility depends on all parameters, not just a single one.

How Can I Check My Sperm Motility?

Semen analysis testing can tell you your sperm motility. It can estimate the total percentage of sperm that are motile, the number of sperm with progressive motility, and the average sperm velocity.

What Can Affect My Sperm Motility?

Many environmental, lifestyle, and health-related factors can lead to abnormal sperm motility. Some of these factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • History of undescended testis in childhood
  • Trauma to the testis or scrotum
  • Infections of the reproductive tract
  • Genetic conditions like cystic fibrosis
  • Use of recreational substances
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor nutrition

How Can I Improve My Sperm Motility?

Taking care of your overall health and well being can improve your sperm quality. Some healthy habits to incorporate include:

  • Checking your sperm health from time to time. A semen analysis gives you an overview of your sperm health
  • Avoid smoking and recreational drugs
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Wear loose boxers to provide a favorable environment for spermatogenesis and avoid overheating the testicles
  • Exercise regularly
  • If your job requires you to sit for hours, take breaks to walk a few steps
  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet

References:

1. Amelar, R D et al. “Sperm motility.” Fertility and sterility vol. 34,3 (1980): 197-215.

2. Salas-Huetos, Albert et al. “The Effect of Nutrients and Dietary Supplements on Sperm Quality Parameters: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials.” Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) vol. 9,6 (2018): 833-848.