Planning to conceive a child requires healthy sperm. People often downplay the importance of sperm health for fertility--when you should be taking all the necessary precautions for your future family.
Here are some elements of healthy sperm:
- Quantity (volume). A healthy sperm count is about 15 million or more for every milliliter (mL) of semen. You are considered to have a low sperm count if you have fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter or less than 39 million sperm total per ejaculate. The more you have, the more likely one of them will make it through the female reproductive system to an egg.
- Movement (motility). Not every sperm moves effectively or even at all, but this is normal. Only about 40 percent or more of them need to be mobile for you to be fertile.
- Shape (morphology). Healthy sperm have rounded heads and long, strong tails. Shapely sperm are more likely to make it to an egg.
How to Have Healthy Sperm
Did you know that you have control over several factors that shape your fertility and how healthy your sperm is? Here are some tips on how to keep your sperm healthy.
The nutrients you eat affect your sperm directly. It’s important to fuel yourself properly with natural foods and ingredients. People who consume a “western” diet (processed meats, grains, dairy, sweets, snacks) are affected by sperm motility. Those who choose a more nutritious diet like chicken, fish, veggies, fruits and whole grains have more mobile sperm.
Just making sure you get in light exercise can increase sperm quantity, movement and shape. One study found that the combination of low activity and high body mass contributed directly to low semen count, meaning having excess weight can affect your testosterone levels! Some easy exercises to incorporate can be anywhere from a brisk walk, pushups or yardwork. But make sure you don’t overdo it since intense physical activity can decrease semen quality.
Boxers or Briefs?
Truthfully- your underwear is probably ok! One study found essentially no difference in underwear type and sperm count. Just don’t “overdo a good thing”. Although this is fine- remember that pant type body heat is a factor to consider, so keep everything balanced and you should be alright.
Limit Alcohol and Caffeine
Studies involving almost 20,000 men suggested that caffeine in soda drinks may damage sperm DNA and decrease sperm count. In addition, consuming more than three cups a day of caffeinated drinks (anywhere from coffee to energy drinks) contributes to lower sperm count and motility. You should also go easy on alcohol consumption as studies have shown that having five or more units of alcohol per week have a lower sperm count. Five units mean 40 ounces of beer, 25 ounces of wine, 7.5 ounces of spirits. Overall, don’t cut out all alcohol and caffeine- just limit to four drinks or less per week for optimal sperm health.
You can directly boost your sperm count with proper nutrition. You can maintain a healthy diet and also take vitamins. Some common supplements and foods to incorporate are vitamin B-12, Vitamin C, Nuts and healthy fats, remember to consult a doctor before incorporating these into your lifestyle.
Avoid Certain Chemicals and Products
Certain types of chemicals could be hormone-disrupting. The scary thing is they can be hiding in everyday places. Some types of hazardous chemicals to be aware of include lead, some plastic materials, aerosol sprays and outdoor pesticides. But most importantly, read labels and ingredients before you buy products.
What to Avoid
To protect your sperm and fertility, exposure to excessive heat or toxic chemicals should be avoided. Here’s what to make sure to stay clear of:
- Don't smoke- Men who smoke cigarettes are more likely to have low sperm counts.
- Limit alcohol- Heavy drinking can lead to reduced testosterone production, impotence and decreased sperm production. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
- Avoid lubricants during intercourse- While further research is needed on the effects of lubricants on fertility, consider avoiding lubricants during intercourse.
- Talk to your doctor about medications and supplements- Calcium channel blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, anti-androgens and other medications can contribute to fertility issues. Anabolic steroids can have the same effect.
- Watch out for toxins- Exposure to pesticides, lead and other toxins can affect sperm quantity and quality. If you must work with toxins, do so safely. For example, wear protective clothing and equipment, and avoid skin contact with chemicals.
- Stay cool- The increased scrotal temperature can hamper sperm production. It is recommended to wear loose-fitting underwear, reducing sitting, avoiding saunas and hot tubs, and limiting scrotum exposure to warm objects, such as a laptop.
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy- These treatments for cancer can impair sperm production and cause infertility that might be permanent. Ask your doctor about the possibility of retrieving and storing sperm before treatment.
The Modamily Concierge service helps build families by providing sperm and egg donation, as well as surrogacy options. Luckily, by choosing Modamily for your donor and/or co-parent you’ll have a large pool of great candidates. Modamily understands that family dynamics have changed. Today, we are allowed to choose our own parenting path and Modamily can align you with like-minded members who allow you to create your own parenting style.
If you’re interested in becoming a sperm donor, we have our guide here. Donors who choose through Modamily get paid medical testing, as well as paid travel or medical expenses. Or if you’re interested in recipient donation prices and packages, schedule a free consultation today!