Last year, I wrote an article on what semen is made of. And it has brought a lot of interest from you readers, wanting to know more about it! And so comes this article, Everything You Need To Know About Improving Semen Quality.
We all know that semen is an integral part of getting pregnant. But that’s not the only thing you need to know about it. Because having just a basic knowledge of the purpose does not allow you to make the best decisions when it comes to your fertility or your partner’s.
Why healthy sperm matters
Infertility isn’t just a woman’s problem: One-third of the time, a male factor is identified as the cause of infertility, notes the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Clearly, having healthy sperm is important. But sperm health goes beyond just conceiving. Sperm quality also plays a role in the health of the overall pregnancy and possibly the baby. In studies on mice, stress and obesity in male mice modified the genes carried in their sperm. It made their mice babies more likely to be overweight and stressed. Still, more human studies are needed to examine this possible link.
There are three elements of healthy sperm that we’re going to discuss:
- Quantity or volume: A healthy sperm count is about 15 million or more for every milliliter (mL) of semen according to the National Health Service UK. The more you have, the more likely one of them will make it through the female reproductive system to an egg. (That’s just basic common sense!)
- Movement or motility: Not every sperm moves effectively or even at all, but this is normal, even in someone who is completely healthy. Only about 40 percent or more of them need to be movin’ and groovin’ for you to be fertile. (So about 6 million of those 15 million sperm in every milliliter.)
- Shape or morphology: Morphology refers to the shape of your sperm, or what it looks like under a microscope. Specifically, it looks at the shape of the sperm head and the size of the sperm. The head shape is important because it affects the sperm’s ability to dissolve the outer surface of an egg and fertilize it. Healthy sperm have rounded heads and long, strong tails. Abnormal sperm have head or tail defects — such as a large or misshapen head or a crooked or double tail. These defects might affect the ability of the sperm to reach and penetrate an egg. However, having a large percentage of misshapen sperm isn’t uncommon. Typically, only around 4% to 10% of the sperm in a semen sample are normal, meaning that the vast majority don’t look perfect under the microscope.
Your sperm is usually healthier the younger you are. Some physicians recommend freezing your sperm earlier in life so that you have your healthiest sperm available for use when you’re ready to start a family. If you’ve already learned that your sperm morphology range is low, it will be too late for that option, however.
Your body is always producing new sperm, so changes to your diet or lifestyle can impact the health of your future sperm. You have control over several things that shape how healthy your sperm is. Here’s what you can do to make those sperm work for you both now and later:
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Maintaining a healthy weight, or lose weight if you are overweight or obese
- Managing or reducing emotional stress
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding tobacco use or illegal drugs
- Wearing loose cotton boxers
Some natural supplements and vitamins may be helpful for promoting normal sperm morphology too.
How To Improve Your Sperm Quality
Limiting Alcohol Consumption
A 2014 study found that having five or more units of alcohol per week had lower sperm count and motility. The effects increase the more you drink, too. Five units is equal to about:
- 40 ounces of beer
- 25 ounces of wine
- 7.5 ounces of spirits
Another 2017 review of just over 16,000 men found that alcohol affects how many sperm come out in each ejaculation. You don’t need to go cold turkey on the alcohol. Just keep it to four drinks or less per week.
Maintaining A Healthy Weight
Eating Healthy (from healthline.com)
You are what you eat — and so are your sperm. There are both good nutrients and bad nutrients to consider in keeping sperm healthy. People eating a “Western” diet — consisting of processed meats, grains, dairy, sweets, snacks, and pizza — are especially affected when it comes to sperm motility in comparison to those who eat a diet higher in chicken, fish, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Go light on the processed stuff and eat more lean meats and whole foods. Try some of these foods and vitamins for a sperm boost:
- Vitamin B-12. This potent vitamin is found in meat, fish, and dairy. It has all sorts of positive effects throughout your body. Among other things, vitamin B-12 protects your sperm from inflammation and oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals in your body.
- Vitamin C. Eating more oranges, berries, potatoes, tomatoes, and spinach can all contribute to a higher sperm count. In some cases, it can even double it after a couple months.
- Nuts. Nuts have long been associated with benefiting sexual health, and the evidence keeps piling on. A 2018 study of 119 men found that a diet high in almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts over a 14-week period increased sperm count by up to 16 percent.
- Lycopene. Lycopene gives foods like tomatoes and watermelons their rich red color. It can reduce reactive oxygen species (ROS) in your body, too. ROS can damage DNA and hurt sperm. Taking 4 to 8 milligrams (mg) of lycopene a day was found to improve sperm count and motility.
Even light exercise can increase sperm quantity, movement, and shape. Try adding an after dinner walk, to help your body digest that last meal of the day. Add a morning yoga routine or even just a short routine of jumping jacks, windmills and lunges to get your blood pumping will help! Start slow and add to it. Exercise and weight loss can boost your sperm count and quality in mere weeks.
Intense physical activity, such as running, cycling at 10 mph or more, walking briskly uphill with a heavy backpack, or jumping rope are linked to decreased semen quality, although the actual reasoning is unclear. This may be due from injury from bicycle seats or scrotum movement or hormone changes from stress.
Stress is defined by both emotional and physiological reactions. An individual experiences these reactions in situations where the demand goes beyond the individual’s ability to cope. In general, stress uses up your body’s resources. That can lead to a bad immune system and hormone imbalances, making the body and mind susceptible to diseases and weak in fighting harmful environmental exposures. When it comes to sperm quality, stress associates with lower testosterone levels and something called ‘oxidative stress’. Both play an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.
In a Danish study from 2016 with 1.215 male participants, the results showed that high self-reported stress associates with lower semen volume, total sperm count, sperm concentration, and healthy looking sperm cells. Men with the highest stress scores showed to have most affected parameters. In another study where life events were evaluated, the researchers found that men who experienced two or more stressful life events within 12 months of each other had a lower percentage of sperm motility and a smaller percentage of sperm of normal morphology, compared with men who did not experience any stressful life events.
One study from 2008 looked into stress therapy and the impact on sperm quality. The study divided 20 men into two groups – participants in Group A got stress reducing therapy (CRM therapy) as treatment, and Group B where participants didn’t get any treatment. The study showed that men who were exposed to stress-reducing therapy (Group A) clearly had improved their semen motility and significantly increased healthy sperm cell count. This indicates that stress is an additional risk factor for male infertility.
Well, you may have thought about what to do to reduce stress, but haven’t taken the opportunity to stop and make an effort. Don’t worry, this is normal for most people with busy lives. Try the following tips:
- Exercise – Try to keep a simple routine and do something you enjoy.
- Consider supplements – There are lots of natural supplements available to help reduce stress. Speak to your doctor, a dietitian, or a naturopath to determine which supplements would be most beneficial to you.
- Reduce your caffeine intake – Try to reduce your intake to no more than one cup of coffee or one soda per day.
- Write your issues down – Seeing your problems on paper sometimes simplifies your issues.
- Make time to spend with friends and family – Give your self more time.
- Learn to say no – You can’t please everyone, but you should please yourself.
Avoiding Tobacco Use or Illicit Drugs
The dangers of illicit drugs is well known. And it’s no wonder that they would have a negative impact on your sperm health and quality. If you are currently using and need help quitting, or know someone who does, please REACH OUT. Believe me when I say that I not only have experience being where you are, but I also have the resources to get you the help you need.
Cigarette smoking has been associated with lower semen volume and total sperm count. Smoking cessation might have a restorative effect on semen quality. What we know for sure is that smoking cessation has a positive effect on overall health. And a healthier you is going to lead to healthier sperm quality.
Boxers Vs Briefs
The temperature of the testes is at issue: In order for testes to produce sufficient quality and quantity of sperm, the temperature of testes must be lower than the core body temperature. When you wear tight fitting underwear, that crowd the testes up next to the body, you are increasing the overall temperature, which could potentially kill off sperm cells.
To keep testes at optimal temperature:
- Don’t wear tight pants — particularly during sports activities. Wear loose clothing, especially if you sit for long periods of time.
- Wear boxer shorts at all times. Of course, they don’t work under tight pants, so make sure that the outer layer is appropriate as well.
- Stay away from saunas and hot tubs.
- And whenever possible, try to give your testes a break and go sans the pants.
Also, keep in mind that it takes 10 to 11 weeks for your body to produce sperm, so none of this is an overnight fix. It is going to take some time and dedication on your part. But the end result is so worth it, I promise!
Make sure you grab a copy of my FREE guide 5 Steps To Increase Your Fertile Cervical Mucus & my FREE Self-Care Mini Course. You can access either one by clicking on the title. These are packed full of information that you can begin implementing today to put yourself one step closer to getting pregnant, naturally.
If you’re looking for a group of like-minded women with which to share your fertility wellness journey, be sure to check out my Whole Body Fertility & Wellness Facebook group today!
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