Male factor infertility impacts many couples' ability to conceive; it’s time we break down exactly what low motility means and if there’s any way to combat it.
There are several aspects of sperm that contribute to male fertility including sperm motility, sperm count, and sperm morphology, to name a few. Let’s focus on sperm motility, which refers to sperm movement, and can mean sperm moves normally, minimally, or not at all.
Understanding sperm motility, morphology, and concentration
Infertility is defined as the failure to conceive after trying for a full year. In terms of sperm health, there’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Sperm count: Ideally, ejaculation should contain at least 15 million sperm per milliliter.
- Sperm morphology: The most effective sperm shape for fertilization includes a long tail and oval shaped head.
- Sperm motility AKA movement: For the best chance of conception, sperm should move in a progressive pattern, essentially moving fast and forward. It’s ideal if at least 40% of sperm are moving.
What causes low motility?
Many cases of low motility are unexplained, but damage to the testicles, drug use, and certain conditions can impact sperm quality. Some examples are:
- Testicular cancer or injury
- Varicocele (enlarged veins in the scrotum)
- Anabolic steroid use
- Illegal drug use
Why is low motility problematic?
If you’re categorized as having low motility, it probably means your sperm isn’t moving efficiently. Sperm could be going in circles rather than a straight line or barely moving at all, which makes it hard for the sperm to get where it needs to go to make a baby! The journey for sperm is a long one: moving through the cervix, uterus, and into the fallopian tubes; it’s important that movement is fast and forward, otherwise you may have a hard time conceiving.
Can you improve low motility?
Since sperm regenerates every 68-72 days, there are ways to improve sperm parameters over time. There have been studies on antioxidant use and semen parameters; one claim states that carnitine improves sperm motility and morphology, along with asthenozoospermia (low motility) and oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (low count, low motility, and poor morphology). There’s also data on how CoQ10 improves sperm parameters, including motility.
Perhaps more important than what you can do to improve sperm health is what you should be avoiding. Here are some tips for preventing male factor infertility:
- Weight: It’s important you maintain a healthy BMI/weight in order to have healthy sperm. This study shows how a healthy BMI can significantly impact sperm motility.
- Rest: Sleep actually has a large impact on semen health, and it’s important you’re getting an adequate amount of sleep.
- STIs: Remaining STI free and treating any possible infections is extremely important for both male and female fertility. Make sure you’re getting tested regularly!
Low motility and infertility
Infertility is a difficult topic for many people, so it’s important that the terms surrounding reproductive health aren’t needlessly confusing. Low motility essentially means low sperm movement. Basically, sperm aren’t moving fast enough or in the correct direction. While this doesn’t mean you’re infertile, it can make conceiving much more difficult. You can look out for your sperm health by taking an antioxidant-rich supplement like our Prenatal for him that aids in sperm health, and read our book, the Guide to Male Fertility.