A semen analysis will let us know about the health of the sperm. The volume, count, motility, and morphology are a few important factors that are evaluated. Sperm health can be affected by different problems, thereby affecting men’s fertility potential. Some of the signs that may indicate unhealthy sperm include decreased sperm motility, the sperm count and abnormal morphology. Read more about the signs of unhealthy sperms.
What are the signs of unhealthy sperm
What is the importance of healthy sperm?
Sperm plays a crucial role in reproduction by fertilizing the oocyte, but it does a lot more than that as shown by Sarah Robertson et.al. 2021. Seminal fluid factors modulate the female immune response at conception to facilitate embryo implantation and reproductive success.
Different types of unhealthy sperms
A) Oligozoospermia: Sperm count less than 15 million/ml
B) Asthenozoospermia: Sperm motility less than 40%
C) Teratozoospermia: Sperms with abnormal morphology and the net normal sperm being less than 4%.
Read more: What is Asthenozoospermia?
Signs that indicate that your sperm may be unhealthy
There are some key factors in order to understand whether your sperm are unhealthy or not. They are:
- Semen Color: Yellow color semen could indicate that you have jaundice or high consumption of alcohol or food that contains high concentration of sulfur. If your semen is greenish-yellow, it is an indication that there is a bacterial infection.
- Blood In Semen or Hematospermia: Blood in your semen, could indicate the presence of STDs due to bacteria or chlamydia. It could be also suggest prostatic infection or trauma to the urethra.
- Swollen testicles :These could suggest inflammation or the presence of hydrocele.
- Testosterone Levels: Low testosterone levels are suggestive of testicular failure.
- Watery Semen: This could be due to low sperm count. Usually, a semen sample is thick.
What determines that your sperm is not healthy?
Sperm count, motility, and morphology are the main factors that determine whether you have healthy sperm or not.
Sperm Count: If your sperm count is low, you may experience difficulty in impregnating your partner. Your sperm count is considered low if the quantity is below 15 million sperm cells per millilitre.
Motility: Your sperm should be able to move to reach a woman’s cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes to fertilise the egg. At least 40% of your sperm should be moving to impregnate your partner. When fewer than 40% of sperm are motile, the sperm motility is considered to be low.
Morphology: Sperm cells with abnormal morphology can have enlarged heads, abnormal shape of the head and the mid-piece, crooked and curved tails, double tails, double heads, and others. The normal shape of a sperm should be the ones that have an oval-shaped heads with long tails.
The DNA fragmentation Index of the sperm plays a critical role in conception. The higher the DNA fragmentation, the lower the fertility rate. High DFI can also contribute to miscarriages.
What Can Affect The Health And Quality Of Sperm?
The health and quality of your sperm may be affected by:
- Age: Sperm count and motility usually decreases after the age of 50.
- Smoking: Smoking has a negative impact on the health of your sperm. It reduces the sperm count, motility and morphology as well as the amount of ejaculated.
- Weight: Being obese or overweight can affect your sperm count. It is also important to bear in mind that obesity can lead to changes in the genes found in your sperm and can be passed down to your unborn child. This is called the epigenetic effect.
- Alcohol: Heavy drinkers may have a diminished sperm quality. Also heavy drinkers may suffer from erectile dysfunction.
- STDs: Sexually transmitted diseases such as genital warts, syphilis and gonorrhoea, among others, can have a negative impact on your reproductive system.
- Medication: Certain medication and recreational substances can affect sperm quality and production.
- Environment: Living or working in places where you can be exposed to toxins and its related products such as chemicals, pesticides or radiation, among others, increases the chances of experiencing lower sperm count and quality and higher DNA Fragmentation.
- Temperature: For sperm to be of good quality, the temperature of the testicles must be lower than the body’s normal temperature. So, ensure that you do not have hot baths or or spend too much time in the sauna.
Is sperm health an essential factor and can we enhance the quality of sperm?
The health of your sperm plays a significant role for conception. It improves your chances of impregnating your partner and producing a healthy baby. Factors such as your age, body weight, whether or not you are a smoker or past testicular injury can affect your sperm heath.
To ensure that your sperm remains healthy, you need to:
- Lead a healthy lifestyle, including exercising and eating healthy.
- Maintain your weight.
- Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol or consuming any tobacco products or recreational drugs.
How long does it take to make new sperm?
Generally, men produce millions of new sperm every day. However, new sperm takes about 74 days to fully mature.
According to WHO 2010 edition:
- Semen Volume: 1.5 ml
- Sperm Count: 15 million/ ml
- Count per total ejaculate: 39 million in the entire sample.
- Motility: 40%
- Morphology: 4% qualify for normal semen parameters
How does heat lead to unhealthy sperm?
Healthy sperm production requires a temperature 2-4 degrees lower than the body temperature. The testes are placed in the scrotum away from the internal heat of the body for the same reason. High temperatures can hurt sperm production through multiple mechanisms including apoptosis of spermatogenic cells, increased oxidative stress, and sperm DNA damage. Studies have found that exposure to temperatures as little as 10 C above the normal range adversely affects male fertility
Overheating can be due to reasons like high fever, motorcycling, & sauna and wearing tight underwear. The usage of laptops and cell phones for prolonged duration can also result in overheating. Physiological factors include Varicocele, undescended testes and obesity. Healthy sperm production after heat exposure can take up to three months. So it is essential to prevent undue overheating. Wearing loose-fitting underclothes, and maintaining a cooler body temperature during hot summers can prevent overheating and ensure healthy sperm production.
How do anabolic steroids affect the quality of sperm?
Anabolic steroids are a natural or synthetic version of Testosterone prescribed to address hormone deficiencies or help certain body forms to build muscle. Anabolic steroids inhibit the secretion of both FSH and LH, which are fundamental to producing sperm. When these hormones are suppressed, sperm production is affected. Sperm quality parameters can be expected to normalize about 3 to 6 months of stopping steroids.
What can you do to keep your sperm healthy?
Some of these may prevent the formation of unhealthy sperm:
A) Maintain a healthy weight: Studies have shown that BMI plays an important role in producing healthy sperm.
B) Exercise: Studies indicate that those who exercise regularly have better sperm quality than those who don’t. While this suggests that you should work out regularly, ensure that you don’t overdo it as it can also reduce your testosterone levels.
C) Healthy diet: Foods like fish seeds and walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, fruits and walnuts. Moreover, food that contains zinc, such as nuts, lobster. beans, turkey and mussels, among others, can enhance your sexual health. Steer clear of processed meats, soy products, high fat dairy products and trans fats. Zinc can enhance the vitality of the sperm. Adequate levels mod floats and Sit B complex may increase your chances of impregnating your partner.
D) Quit Smoking: Studies have shown that men who smoke cigarette heavily can experience low sperm count and DNA damage of the sperm.
E) Manage stress: Stress can interfere with your sex life and this can impact hormones essential to produce sperm. To manage stress, eat healthy, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and if the issue persists, consult your fertility specialist.
G) Adequate sleep: Since getting enough sleep is vital for our overall health and wellbeing. Inadequate sleep can affect your reproductive potential. 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep will help.