How Do I Understand Sperm Quality?

Sperm quality is the measure of the overall health of the total number of sperm cells present in the ejaculate. Sperm quality helps to determine their ability to accomplish fertilization and maintain male fertility.

When a couple struggles with conceiving, when evaluating the male sperm quality is often one of the first parameters investigated by doctors. Some medical experts recommend checking it even before testing your female partner, because evaluating sperm is generally less invasive than testing female fertility.

This article will be a brief overview of sperm quality and its relationship with male infertility.

  1. What Does Sperm Quality Entail?
  2. How DNA Damage Affect Sperm Quality?
  3. Can I Check Sperm Quality At Home?
  4. Does Semen Have A Role In Sperm Quality?
  5. How Can I Preserve High Sperm Quality?

What Does Sperm Quality Entail?

Sperm quality is a broad term and includes all the vital features of sperm cells, except for their count. Different from the count, the sperm quality helps to evaluate whether or not the cells are healthy enough to cause pregnancy. When considering sperm quality, these are the characteristics that are evaluated:

  • Sperm Morphology
    Sperm morphology is the shape or structure of sperm. For a pregnancy, sperm should be free of manufacturing errors and contain a head, tail, and midpiece.
  • The head is like a tadpole with a nucleus and a cap covering it from the top.
  • The tail should be long flagella without any tangling.
  • The midpiece should have mitochondria for energy supply.

Above all, 4% of your sperm should have this accurate alignment of structures. If this percentage is lower, it is called teratozoospermia and translates into low sperm quality.

Sperm Motility

Sperm motility represents the ability of sperm to move in a way that reaches fertilization. For a high sperm quality, more than 40% of your sperm cells should have forward progression.

Asthenozoospermia (inadequate motile sperm) dampens this quality and results in male infertility.

DNA Quality

DNA quality is the “software” of sperm cells. If your sperm are structurally sound and motile but possess damaged DNA, their “hardware” features are useless. After all, fertilization is the fusion of male and female genetic material.

How DNA Damage Affect Sperm Quality?

Humans have a set of 46 chromosomes that contain genetic material. These genes transfer to the next generation through the sexual fertilization of male and female partners.

Each egg and sperm cell contains half of these chromosomes because they are “haploid” cells. Sperm carry these chromosomes in the nucleus. If the DNA is damaged, you might experience a pregnancy loss (miscarriage) or not get pregnant at all.

So, one vital part of sperm quality is the health of DNA that the male partner contributes. The damage is often termed DNA fragmentation.

According to research, increasing age is a major culprit in DNA fragmentation. This is why the late age of first-time parents (both male and female) has become a significant factor in increasing infertility.

Can I Check Sperm Quality At Home?

Semen analysis is an excellent initial test for investigating sperm quality. It allows you a peek into your sperm motility and morphology.

The general idea is that if other parameters in your sperm quality are in satisfactory range, DNA fragmentation is less likely.

You can take a semen analysis test at home using an in-home testing kit. Ensure that you abstain from sexual intercourse or ejaculation 3 to 5 days before taking this test because it can slightly vary the results.

Does Semen Have A Role In Sperm Quality?

Semen is a whitish-grey fluid produced by glands in the male reproductive tract.

As its primary function is the transport of sperm through the male reproductive tract, it does not influence sperm production. However, semen plays a vital role in maintaining integrity.

  • It has fructose, which acts as a fuel for sperm motility.
  • It contains nutrients like zinc that protect DNA from fragmentation.
  • Abnormal semen might contain antibodies that attack sperm cells and destroy their morphology.

You can judge your semen quality by its texture, color, and volume.

Texture of semen

The texture should be slightly thicker and not dry up too quickly. Sometimes due to lesser intervals between subsequent ejaculations, semen can become thin or liquidy. If the interval is appropriate, a thin semen consistency is due to a lack of nutrients.

Color of semen

The color also can navigate you towards abnormality. Yellow or greenish color depicts an infection of the prostate or reproductive tract. It is rare, though, because illness also manifests as other symptoms like pain or burning during peeing.

Volume of semen

The amount of semen per ejaculate has a prominent effect on sperm quantity. The quality stays somewhat intact unless there is inadequate nourishment for sperm. Aspermia is the absence of ejaculation and lead to decline in fertility.

How Can I Preserve High Sperm Quality?

An overall active lifestyle is crucial for high sperm quality.

  • Maintain your weight with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
  • Don’t smoke or use drugs like cocaine.
  • Keep your alcohol consumption in moderation.
  • Be watchful of your semen color, texture, and volume.
  • If you suspect any abnormality, take an in-home semen analysis test.

These measures improve and maintain sperm quality. But for a permanent solution, you should nip the problem in the bud. Aging makes your sperm vulnerable to DNA fragmentation, which is the trickiest issue to tackle in quality maintenance. So, freeze your sperm while they are strong because you cannot always control your fertility levels.

  1. Tomlinson, Mathew et al. “Sperm quality and its relationship to natural and assisted conception: British Fertility Society guidelines for practice.” Human fertility (Cambridge, England) vol. 16,3 (2013): 175-93.
  2. Colasante, Alessandro et al. “The aging male: Relationship between male age, sperm quality and sperm DNA damage in an unselected population of 3124 men attending the fertility centre for the first time.” Archivio italiano di urologia, andrologia : organo ufficiale [di] Societa italiana di ecografia urologica e nefrologica vol. 90,4

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