What makes a sperm succeed? There are many factors, from motility to sperm count, that improve a man's chances of conceiving. We’ve already gone over the various causes of low sperm count in another blog, but let’s take a look at what healthy sperm look like.
(And remember: if you’re a man dealing with infertility, you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your family, loved ones, fertility doctor and your support network. Help is out there, and the sooner you get it, the sooner you’ll be on your way to fatherhood.)
When it comes to male fertility, look for the following five characteristics:
What is a healthy sperm count? While many of us have heard the phrase, “It only takes one!”, that’s not entirely accurate. The truth is that a healthy range for sperm count is anywhere from 40 to 300 million sperm per milliliter. For context, 300 million is the approximate population of the United States in 2014.
Less than 10 million sperm is considered a poor sperm count, and a sperm count of 20 million or above may be workable if the sperm is of high quality. Remember that while one sperm cell goes on to join the egg and become a zygote, it takes several sperm to break down the protective layer around the egg through which the victorious sperm will borrow and grow into your future offspring. Not only that, but the journey to the egg is Oregon Trail levels of difficult, and the more sperm you can take on the trip, the better chance one will survive.
A healthy sperm count isn’t the only male fertility measure you need to know about, though. If it takes a village to fertilize an egg, that village can’t be the town of Bomont in Footloose (prior, of course, to the arrival of Kevin Bacon) — in other words, the sperm has got to have the moves.
In fertility jargon, this is called sperm motility: how well the sperm actually swim. One measure of healthy sperm is whether 50% of sperm are moving in a straight line one hour post ejaculation.
Whether your sperm could compete in Ironman triathlons or they’re still brushing up on their breaststroke, it’s important that you don’t slow their progress by using lubricants that harm sperm motility. Many personal lubes create an environment that’s not idea for sperm to make their epic journey, but Astroglide TTC is formulated especially for partners who want to be parents. With osmolality, pH and consistency tailored to the needs of your little swimmers, Astroglide TTC has been shown in studies to be compatible with sperm. So lube up and make it a night to remember!
Hot heads may be movers and shakers in some parts of business, but as for your personal business, you really want to play it cool in order to maintain healthy sperm. Exposure to high temperature can tamper your sperm count, so you’ll want to avoid hot tubs, saunas, excessively tight skinny jeans (and the tighty whiteys you may wear under them) and other sperm-killing sources of heat.
To this end, some companies are even coming out with underwear specifically for men trying to conceive. While the jury is still out on whether a purpose-built pair of skivvies can improve your fertility odds, at the very least it sounds like a great way to get some refreshing comfort on a hot summer day.
As unfortunate as the truth may be, looks do matter in the world of business — and, er, reproduction. We all know what sperm look like: little oval heads with long, ribbon-like tails, technically known as “flagella.” Unfortunately, not all sperm are blessed with Adonis physiques, and sperm whose tails just aren’t long and strong enough may struggle through their long sprint to the egg.
Thankfully, a little sprucing up can go a long way when it comes to how you look. You know the old saying: “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” Luckily, science is already working on a solution for scraggly looking sperm. One sci-fi answer involves nanobots that wrap around the flagellum of a sperm cell, like a tiny futuristic suit. Though they’re still in testing, these spermbots may one day help men struggling with infertility to improve their sperm motility.
When we talk about diet and male fertility, there are plenty of things a man can do: eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, reduce processed meat and alcohol intake and maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI), among other things. But sperm have their own nutritional needs, as well! Just like any other athlete, sperm need energy to power through their marathons, and the main sources of energy for sperm are fructose (the sugar found in fruit) and galactose.
That doesn’t mean you need to go chugging high fructose corn syrup in order to maintain healthy sperm — even if you could stand to gain some weight to get up to a healthy BMI, there are healthier ways of getting those calories. It is good to know, though, that even sperm have their own tiny, nutritional needs, and some TTC lubricants (including Astroglide TTC) contain galactose and fructose for this very reason.