Do your sperm pass muster? If you and your partner are planning a pregnancy, you may be wondering about the health of your sperm.
Start by understanding the various factors that can affect male fertility — then consider steps you can take to help your sperm become top performers.
What determines sperm health?
Sperm health depends on several factors, including:
- Quantity. You’re most likely to be fertile if your ejaculate — the semen discharged in a single ejaculation — contains more than 39 million sperm.
- Quality. You’re most likely to be fertile if more than 4 percent of your sperm have a normal shape and structure. A normal sperm has an oval head and a long tail, which work together to propel it forward. Sperm with large, small, tapered or crooked heads or kinky, curled or double tails are less likely to fertilize an egg.
- Motility. To reach the egg, sperm have to move on their own — wriggling and swimming the last few inches to reach and penetrate the egg. You’re most likely to be fertile if more than 40 percent of your sperm are moving.
What’s the best way to produce healthy sperm?
You can take simple steps to increase your chances of producing healthy sperm. For example:
- Take a multivitamin. A daily multivitamin can help provide vitamin E and vitamin C — nutrients that are important for optimal sperm production and function.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. These foods are rich in antioxidants, which may help improve sperm health.
- Manage stress. Stress may interfere with certain hormones needed to produce sperm. Stress can also decrease sexual function.
- Get plenty of physical activity. Physical activity is good for reproductive health as well as overall health. Don’t overdo it, however. If you exercise to exhaustion, you may experience a temporary change in hormone levels and a drop in sperm quality.
- Watch your weight. Too much body fat may disrupt production of reproductive hormones, which can reduce your sperm count and increase your percentage of abnormal sperm. You’re most likely to produce high-quality sperm if you maintain a healthy weight.