Healthy sperm is important not only for conception but also for the ongoing health of the baby. A third of all reproductive issues can be attributed to male fertility issues, so for men planning on conceiving, it’s important that they keep their sperm healthy. But what determines healthy sperm, and what can be done to make sure your swimmers stay in tip-top shape?
When determining healthy sperm there are three main factors that are taken into consideration: Quantity, movement and structure or morphology. A male is considered fertile if his sperm is healthy in each of these categories and is determined by the following factors:
• If there are over 15 million sperm per millilitre
• 40% of sperm are strong swimmers
• Sperm must have oval heads and long tails for propulsion
Increased scrotal temperature can have an inverse effect on sperm production. Taking measures like wearing loose-fitting underwear, reducing time seated, avoiding warm baths and saunas and using your laptop on a table can go a long way to boost sperm production.
Like most aspects of life, diet plays a big role in sperm health. Certain vitamins and minerals provide the building blocks for sperm production and keeping your body nourished in the right ways will give you the vitality to produce healthy sperm. Here are some key nutrients that you should be eating for healthy sperm:
• Vitamin B-12 protects sperm from inflammation, oxidative stress from free radicals. This vitamin is found in meat, fish and dairy.
• Vitamin C helps to keep your sperm count high, so be sure to be stocked up in oranges, berries tomatoes and spinach.
• Lycopene is responsible for the red pigmentation in foods such as watermelon and tomatoes and can reduce reactive oxygen species (ROS) which can damage DNA and hurt sperm.
• Folic acid is important for the development of healthy sperm, and links have been found that those who have lower levels of the nutrient have higher rates of abnormal chromosome development.
• Zinc and Selenium are important for sperm quality and mobility. Zinc-rich foods include dark chicken meat, baked beans, oysters and lean beef. Foods rich in selenium are eggs, meat, fish, bread and nuts.
Exercise not only keeps you fit but also helps to keep hormones and endorphins flowing, which can improve your mood as well as your sperm production and quality. Links have been found between a high body mass index (BMI) and poor semen quality, and it is widely known that being overweight can affect testosterone production. Exercise is also a good way to curb stress, which in itself can increase abnormal sperm counts and reduce sperm concentration. Just be sure to avoid long distance cycling, as extended exposure to bicycle seats has been linked to lower sperm count.
Alcohol can have an adverse effect on sperm count and can cause unhealthy development, however, men don’t have to completely give up their favourite beverage. It’s recommended that men limit consumption to 5 standard units a week to give their sperm the best chance of forming.
Men who are planning to have children should be mindful of their caffeine consumption. Links between high caffeine consumption and reduced sperm count have been found in those who drink more than two cups of coffee a day.
Smoking cigarettes is detrimental to just about all parts of the body, and sperm health is no exception. Cigarettes can create slow-moving sperm and can cause sperm count to drop. It’s recommended that men quit smoking three months before they plan to conceive to give their sperm the best chance possible.
If you are unsure about the health of your sperm, it’s recommended that you get a thorough checkup before trying to conceive. A pre-conception checkup will check body mass index, fertility and include an overall health screening. It’s also important to discuss any medications that are used, lifestyle factors and genetic disorders or history that may affect conception or the health of the future baby.
If you have any questions about how to maintaining healthy sperm or would like to book an appointment, please feel free to contact or call Dr Arianayagam’s office on 1300 307 990 and his staff will be able to assist.