According to Resolve, the National Infertility Association, approximately 30% of infertility is due to factors involving sperm. Many couples are unaware of how this can be a factor in their fertility. If couples have been tested at a Reproductive Endocrinologists office they most likely have had a sperm analysis done but, if they were tested at their general doctors office, they may not have been tested at all, or at least not with the criteria that fertility doctors use. Here is a brief description of what the technical terms are for each marker and their ideal values as well as a few ways you can improve your sperm markers.
Motility: This is the measurement of how well the sperm are moving forward. This is obviously an important factor so that the sperm can travel the sometimes treacherous journey to fertilizing the egg. Greater than or equal to 50% is considered fertile.
Count or Concentration: How many sperm are swimming around. The more there are, the better the odds. 15,000,000 or more is considered a good count.
Morphology: (Strict-Kruger is considered the gold standard) this is the % of how many normal sperm there are. Ideally sperm have one head and one tail, but poor morphology shows sperm with abnormal shapes (two heads, or two tails for example). Greater than 4% or more is considered normal.
So what do you do if you get news that your sperm doesn’t meet all these markers?
Lifestyle choices: Stop smoking tobacco and marijuana, stop drinking, stop using steroids. Avoid hot tubs, tight underwear and long bike rides. All of these have been shown to improve sperm motility.
Change your diet: Introduce foods that are known to eliminate free radicals and are high in antioxidants; organically grown fruits and vegetables especially broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. These foods have been shown to help improve sperm markers. Essential fatty acids are a must; mackerel, sardines nuts, avocados and olives (avoid farm raised fish). Dairy products should be used in moderation as well as sodas. Drink only filtered or bottled water.
Supplements: Antioxidant supplements such as L-Arginine and Pycnogenols have been shown to help with sperm markers.
Acupuncture: One of acupuncture’s main function is to restore proper blood flow which is essential for healthy sperm. It also has the added benefit of easing stress which is a common experience of couples that are trying to conceive.
All of these things take time so don’t expect immediate results. Sperm takes about 72 days to mature so we can do things to improve the quality of the sperm before it is ejaculated and ready to fertilize.