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What Is Sperm Motility?

Many characteristics of sperm determine male fertility. One of those features is sperm motility. It refers to the movement of sperm to reach the ovum for fertilization. The motility depends not only on the number of motile sperm but also on how those sperm move.

This article is a brief overview of what is normal sperm motility and things that can lead to abnormal movement of sperm cells.

  1. Why Is Sperm Motility Important?
  2. How Do Sperm Cells Move?
  3. What Is Normal Motility Of Sperm?
  4. Does The Number Of Motile Sperm Matter?
  5. How Can I Check The Motility Levels Of Sperm?
  6. What Can Affect My Sperm Motility?
  7. How Can I Improve My Sperm Motility?
  8. Is There A Permanent Solution?

Why Is Sperm Motility Important?

Sperm motility is crucial because the ovum cannot move on its own. The ovaries in women are present inside the body. They produce ovum in the abdominal region but the implantation of the fertilized embryo occurs in the uterus.

Ejaculation happens in the vagina; therefore, sperm have to move from the vagina to the fallopian tubes. The fallopian tubes appear like two arms of the uterus that connect it to the ovaries.

Fallopian tubes have cilia in them, which are small thread-like projections. They collectively move in a rhythmic motion and sweep the ovum from the ovaries to where the uterus begins.

Since the uterus does not have cilia, this is as far as the ovum can go. That is why sperm have to float and cover this distance.

How Do Sperm Cells Move?

Sperm cells have supportive apparatus to keep them accelerated in their journey. From the testis to the epididymis, cilia perform this task. These cilia are similar to hair-like structures in fallopian tubes of female reproductive tubules.

In the epididymis, each sperm cell develops a long tail. These flagella-like tail structures make them independent and capable of motion. Other supportive elements include semen in the male reproductive tract, which lubricates the pathway.

However, from the cervix to the ovum, these sperm cells are lone riders and have to move independently. The tail drives energy from mitochondria present in the mid-piece and makes this happen.

What Is Normal Motility Of Sperm?

The typical motility depends on the pattern and speed.

The Pattern of Motility:

The usual pattern of motility is either forward progression or circular motion. If a sperm cell moves in narrow circles or has aberrant direction, fertilization becomes impossible. This abnormality in motility refers to asthenozoospermia.

The Velocity of Sperm:

The average velocity of sperm cells is up to 25 micrometer per second at least. It takes 5 to 10 minutes for a sperm to reach the fallopian tube from the cervix. Depending on the health of sperm, this process can delay or may not happen at all.

Progressive motility

The progressive motility means sperm can float at a speed of 25 micrometers per second or more.

Non-progressive motility

Non-progressive motility defines the slow movement of sperm measuring as less than 5 micrometers per second.

For healthy sperm motility, both these parameters should be in the normal range.

Does The Number Of Motile Sperm Matter?

Yes, it does. For healthy fertility levels, at least 40% of your sperm should be motile. This proportion is the bare minimum and does not include the typical forward progression and patterns of motility.

So, to be precise, at least 32% of your sperms cells should have productive motility that can make them reach the ovum. Anything below this percentage means you may not be able to impregnate your female partner.

How Can I Check The Motility Levels Of Sperm?

It is not hard to measure your sperm motility. Semen analysis testing, which is the initial test for male fertility investigation, can tell you that. It judges the motility of your sperm cells in the following categories:

Percentage Motility

It measures the total proportion of sperm in a semen sample that are capable of moving.

Concentration Of Motile Sperm

It represents the percentage of motile sperm per mL of the semen sample. An appropriate ejaculate volume should be at least 2 to 4mL.

Total Motile Sperm

It is the measure of total sperm with progressive motility, forward direction, and an appropriate velocity. This factor is paramount and plays the most critical role in determining male fertility.

Average Sperm Velocity

Average sperm velocity quantifies the speed of sperm. It calculates the distance covered by sperm cells in microns per second.

What Can Affect My Sperm Motility?

Many structural and functional factors can lead to abnormal sperm motility. They range from tail defects that occur during spermatogenesis to structural changes in the male reproductive tracts. Even the female reproductive tract can be a culprit. If it does not provide sperm with a favorable environment, they may not be able to float.

Some of the parameters you should look out for are listed below:

  • Infection of the epididymis or reproductive tract
  • Undescended testis in childhood
  • Repeated minor trauma to testis or scrotum
  • Genetic factors that lead to dysfunctional cilia in the male reproductive tract
  • Defects in sperm morphology and unhealthy tail
  • Smoking and use of anabolic steroids
  • Use of recreational drugs

How Can I Improve My Sperm Motility?

Some of the healthy practices that you can incorporate in your life are as follows:

  • Make a habit of checking your sperm health from time to time. A regular semen analysis gives you a clear picture of your sperm health. It aids you in realizing when you need to initiate changes in your lifestyle that improve sperm health.
  • Avoid smoking and use of recreational drugs because they produce toxins in your body. These toxic elements cause tail defects and reduce the motility of sperm.
  • Keep your weight in a healthy body mass index limit (not more than 25) because gaining weight affects the quality and movement of sperm cells.
  • Wear loose boxers to provide a favorable environment for spermatogenesis. It reduces the chances of the malformed tail.
  • Curate an active lifestyle by adding exercise. It has a two-way effect because it helps you lose weight and gives air to your testes.
  • If you have a sitting job, take a break every hour and walk a few steps.
  • Add vitamins and minerals to your life. According to research, selenium improves sperm motility. You can have these micronutrients by filling your plate with vegetables and fruits.

Is There A Permanent Solution?

Understandably, keeping tabs on your fertility can be exhausting. You can preserve it by freezing your sperm when they are in great shape.

  1. Amelar, R D et al. “Sperm motility.” Fertility and sterility vol. 34,3 (1980): 197-215.
  2. Salas-Huetos, Albert et al. “The Effect of Nutrients and Dietary Supplements on Sperm Quality Parameters: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials.” Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) vol. 9,6 (2018): 833-848.

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Some sperm is lost and damaged during the transport, storage, freezing, and thawing process. The semen analysis reflects values at the time of the analysis, after transport and before freezing. These values will decrease throughout the freezing and thawing process. A semen analysis alone cannot be used to predict fertility.
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