Sperm motility refers to the movement capacity of the sperm. When couple faces difficulty with conceiving naturally, a set of fertility tests is conducted to determine the cause of the difficulty. As part of these tests done, a semen analysis is also done to determine the ability of the male partner towards conception. This test measures parameters such as sperm motility/ movement, sperm count, and sperm morphology/ shape which helps us in determining the choice of infertility treatment which may work best for the couple. Sperm motility holds equal importance as sperm count for determining potency.
If the sperm cannot swim through appropriately, it can make natural conception and pregnancy very difficult. Due to low motility, the sperm cannot reach the egg leading to unsuccessful fertilization. In some cases, the sperm is not able to pass the vaginal canal owing to poor motility.
What is Sperm Motility?
Sperm motility is the movement of the sperm which helps us is determining the ability of a man to impregnate a woman. Sperm motility test analyses if the sperm are swimming appropriately and if they are swimming in a straight line. The sperms are graded from letter A to D based on the ability to move fast and swim in a straight line. The sperms that are fastest and able to swim straight are graded A, while the sperms which are not able to able to move at all are graded D. The test sample is known as low sperm motility, if more than 25 to 30 percent of the total sperm are unable to move forward progressively.
Medically speaking, this condition is termed as asthenozoospermia or asthenospermia. Complete asthenozoospermia, i.e. 100 percent loss of sperm motility in the ejaculate is rare and may be seen in about 1 in 5000 men.
What Causes Low Sperm Motility?
There may be several factors that may lead to low sperm motility. Most of these causative factors are lifestyle oriented and can be improved by following a healthy lifestyle. The possible causes of low sperm motility are as follows:
Excessive Stress as a Cause of Low Sperm Motility
With exposure to excessive work and tension in daily routine, there can be increased level of stress. Undue stress can lead to low sperm motility and other health issues. It can also lead to general fatigue and unwillingness to have sex which may worsen the case.
Unhealthy Diet Causing Low Sperm Motility
Following an unhealthy diet with inadequate hydration can also cause low sperm motility. Lack of certain nutrients in the body such as vitamins (vitamin C and vitamin B12) can lead to fertility and potency issues.
Exposure to Excessive Heat Causes Low Sperm Motility
Activities such as sitting in sauna, hot tub or Jacuzzi for prolonged period of time; or holding a laptop or other gadget on the lap on a regular basis may lead to excessive heating over the genitals causing low sperm motility.
Inappropriate Clothing as a Cause of Low Sperm Motility
It has been seen that wearing tight and restricting underwear and clothes can also cause low sperm motility and reduce sperm growth rate drastically.
Side Effects of Medications
Certain medications can lead to low sperm motility rate as a side effect. It is therefore important to consult a doctor before taking any medications to understand the possible side effects associated with it.
Smoking and Alcohol Consumption
Over-abundance of Sex
Over-abundance of sex is known to cause low sperm motility. This is generally more evident when someone is under the misconception that excessive sex increases the chances of conception.
Exposure to Heavy Metal as a Cause of Low Sperm Motility
Certain heavy metal can cause low sperm motility. Excessive intake of iodized salt can lead to reduced motility rate in some individuals.
Low Sperm Motility Due to Genetics
Genetics and family inheritance can also be a cause of low sperm motility.
Ways to Fix Low Sperm Motility
It has been seen that majority of the cases of low motility sperm is caused because of following of unhealthy lifestyle. The following precautionary methods can help in fixing the problem of low sperm motility:
- Quit smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products
- Avoid indulgence in recreational drugs and marijuana to improve sperm motility
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Avoid using anabolic steroids including testosterone supplements to fix the problem of low sperm motility
- Avoid over indulgence in sexual activities
- Increased intake of antioxidants such as citric fruits
- Increased intake of fruits and vegetables rich in zinc, selenium, manganese, lycopene and potassium. These are present in foods like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, dark chocolate, tomatoes, nuts, beans, whole grains, etc.
- Avoid wearing very tight undergarments especially at night to fix low sperm motility issues.
- One must work on keeping the temperature of the scrotum 2 degrees below the body temperature. Hence, men must also avoid sauna and steam baths for prolonged time.
Treatment Options for Conception When Suffering from Low Sperm Motility
Low sperm motility reduces the chances of fertility but it does not mean that the journey has come to an end. With advancement in medical sciences and technology a large number of treatment modality have been made available for overcoming low sperm motility. There are many treatment options which may help in management of low sperm motility. These include the following:
Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI)
It is a form of artificial insemination, where the partner’s semen sample is prepared and the sperm is placed inside the female’s uterus using a special apparatus under controlled setting to increase the chances of fertilization. This procedure reduces the distance required by the sperm to swim and reach the egg. It is usually the choice of treatment when the sperm has motility of at least 30 to 35 percent.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
In vitro fertilization is a procedure that is being used widely to overcome infertility. It is a procedure that takes place in a laboratory under complete supervision. Here, the IVF expert keeps the ovum with the sperms in a petri dish under controlled setting so that fertilization takes place. Once it has fertilized, the embryo is transferred back to the uterus.
Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
It is a process that takes place during an in vitro fertilization process where the sperm is injected directly into the egg to increase the possibility of fertilization to take place successfully. Studies have shown that this procedure has a success rate of 70 to 90 percent. This procedure can be initiated irrespective of the sperm motility, provided there is evidence of at least one motile sperm in the specimen collected.
Treatment of low sperm motility with medications is still under research and clinical studies. However, it has been seen that the motility rate and total count of sperms improve with medications such as Clomid (clomiphene) which is a combination of certain vitamins.
Use of Sperm Donor
If the male partner is unable to produce mobile and viable sperm, contribution by a sperm donor may be considered. Here, the sperm is pre-collected from a donor and it is used for fertilization under controlled environment. A donor semen sample can be used for IUI as well as for IVF.
Low sperm motility is a condition where the sperm is unable to move at an adequate speed and maintain an appropriate direction. This results in reduced possibility of fertilization or pregnancy. With change in lifestyle habits, the incidence of low sperm motility has been increasing. However, low sperm motility should not be a cause of giving up the dream of having a baby by the couple. It just takes one healthy sperm to fertilize an egg. With advancement in medical sciences, a large number of treatment options are now available for overcoming this problem. Based on the other parameters of fertility and conception, financial capacity and health of both partners, a suitable treatment plan is decided. An intervention by a fertility specialist is often helpful in deciding the treatment plan.
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