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Sperm Mobility – Everything You Need To Know

Sperm Mobility

Sperm Motility - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

30-Second-Summary
  • Sperm mobility or motility refers to the ability of sperm cells to progress beyond cervical mucus and fertilize a female ovum.
  • Many infertile males suffer from low sperm mobility where sperms move sluggishly and fail to reach the female egg.
  • If you are infertile, a doctor can do a semen analysis to help you know your ejaculate volume, sperm count, morphology, and sperm motility range.
  • Previous surgery or injury to the testes, prostate, or anywhere around the testes, varicocele condition, and genetic disorders are some causes of low sperm movement.
  • You can get treatment, avoid drugs and alcohol abuse, exercise, and shed weight to remedy low sperm motility.
  • The ways to increase sperm motility can be medical and natural.

Introduction

The ability of sperm to progress and move past the cervical mucus and fertilize the female egg(ovum) in the uterus is called normal sperm motility. One major cause of male infertility is low sperm mobility, where the sperm doesn’t move progressively beyond the cervix to fertilize the female egg.

Without fertilization, a couple won’t have children at all. Research shows about 15-20% of couples[1] experience infertility. And, infertile males account for 30-40% of infertile couples. Of this 30-40 %, about half are due to lack of normal sperm motility.

Here is a look at the impact of sperm motility on fertility, the causes of poor sperm movement, and how you can increase sperm motility.

What Is Sperm Mobility?

The term sperm mobility refers to the speed and manner of movement of sperm cells against any resistance at body temperature.

We define sperm mobility as the ability of sperm to move[2] progressively against a viscous medium at about 41°C. And that sperm is more likely to fertilize an ovum than males producing less mobile sperm.

Variously called normal sperm motility, healthy sperm mobility is when sperm has forward progressions of at least 25 micrometers per second.

Poor sperm mobility is called asthenospermia or asthenozoospermia. The sperm motility range may have several issues.

Firstly, sperm cells may be progressive[3], moving in small tight concentric circles, straight forward, at about 25 micrometers per second. Secondly, some cells move sluggishly or slowly towards the cervix, at 5 micrometers per second, in small tight circles, making little progress.

But, most won’t reach and penetrate the ovum, so they have little chance of fertilization due to the low sperm motility range. And the last batch doesn’t move at all, so infertility occurs.

Understanding Your Semen Analysis

Semen Analysis

A physician can perform a semen analysis to establish a few aspects causing infertility.

  • Ejaculate Volume – The average volume is 1.5 to 2 milliliters. Lower than 1.5 is hypospermia[4], and more than 5 ml is hyperspermia. But volume decreases with each subsequent ejaculation.
  • Sperm Amount or Concentration – To make a woman pregnant, your sperm count should be at least 15 million per milliliter of ejaculate. But normal sperm range is 40 to 300 million per milliliter of fluid or semen ejaculated. Low sperm count is oligospermia, while zero sperm is azoospermia.
  • The Shape of the Sperm or Morphology – According to Kruger’s criteria, the sperm tail, head, and midsection must be normal. A sperm shape of 4% to 48% is normal.
  • Sperm Mobility or “Sperm Motility” – One automated instrument measures the sperm motility range and rates it from 0 to 4. If it’s rated 3 or 4, then it’s healthy. If it’s 0, then the sperm cells aren’t mobile.

But, from the table below, a sperm motility range of 32% to 75% is sufficient for fertilization to occur.

Results Table For Semen Analysis

The following table shows semen analysis results, as analyzed by the World Health Organization (WHO)[5]. NB: Results shown are average range since individuals are different.

Individual aspects WHO reference range
Total sperm count in the ejaculate 39–928 million
Ejaculate volume 1.5–7.6 mL
Sperm concentration 15–259 million per mL
Total motility (progressive and non-progressive) 40–81 percent
Progressive motility 32–75 percent
Sperm morphology 4–48 percent

Table Credit: healthline.com

Low sperm motility is a condition where the sperm can’t move fast beyond the cervix to go and fertilize the female egg(ovum). Some sperms are too slow to go past the cervix, so they remain in the vagina.

The following two ways describe low sperm motility.

Progressive motility is where sperms move forward in large circular motions or straight lines. Such movement allows the sperms to go to the uterus and fertilize the ovum for conception.

The sperm must progress at least 25 micrometers per second[6] to break the cervical mucus and fertilize the egg.

Non-progressive motility is where sperm swim in small circles and never follow a straight line. As such, some take too long to reach the ovum, while most never progress to the ovum at all.

In a nutshell, if less than 32% of the sperm can move progressively towards the egg, this is low sperm motility (asthenozoospermia).

Causes Of Low Sperm Motility

The causes of low sperm motility aren’t expressly clear, but here are some possible causes.

1. Damage to the Testes

Sperm cells are made and stored in the testes before being released and mixed with semen from the prostate gland. Therefore, any damage to the testes influences sperm quality and normal sperm motility.

Various ways the testes can get destroyed[7] include physical injuries, sexually transmitted infections, and testicular cancer. Also, any surgery around the testes, exposure of testes to excessive heat, and more.

2. Smoking, Substance Abuse, and Excessive Alcoholism

Men who smoke, take harmful drugs, and drink excessive alcohol are at risk of developing a low sperm motility range. These include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and unverified natural supplements. Also, using anabolic steroids and other boosters for fitness and sports may lower sperm motility.

Men who consume excess alcohol daily don’t have normal sperm motility. Alcohol replaces glucose in the blood reducing the ability to transport sperms.

Some of the effects of these factors may be temporary, particularly erectile dysfunction and low libido, but long-term use of drugs and alcohol may cause permanent low sperm motility.

3. Varicocele Condition

If the veins inside the scrotum enlarge, the condition is called varicocele. A varicocele develops if the valves in the scrotal veins function poorly or if the veins get compressed by a structure nearby.

Studies show 40 of 100 infertile men have varicocele. But, varicoceles have no symptoms. However, varicoceles may lower sperm quality, count, and motility leading to infertility. Varicocele is associated with some signs like scrotal mass growth, sharp scrotum pain, enlarged veins, heavy tingling sensation, and infertility.

Fortunately, varicocele is treatable. So, if in doubt, consult your urologist. Otherwise, if left untreated, a varicocele[8] may cause shrinking of the testes and childlessness.

4. Genetic and Natural Causes

Your genetic disposition and heredity may cause low sperm motility. Having progressive sperm motility or healthy sperm looks automatic for healthy fertile men. But, so many things must happen before virile sperms happily swim and penetrate an ovum for fertilization.

Come to think of it: the testes must produce sperms under the control of body hormones. The prostate gland must produce semen to transport them, and the sperms must meet and mix in the epididymis. And then pass them through vas deferens to the ejaculatory duct. So, if your genetic makeup doesn’t allow every organ and gland to function, you won’t have normal sperm motility.

How To Increase Sperm Motility?

Increase Sperm Motility
If you are wondering how to increase sperm motility, try some of the following ways.

1. Treatment for Low Sperm Motility

If your sperm has all qualities except motility, try intrauterine insemination (IUI) or artificial insemination. The process involves getting sperms from your testes and injecting them into the uterus of your partner for conception.

Your physician will ensure your partner is in her fertile days, or he induces egg production by administering some medication. If you can’t fertilize the ovum in the womb, you can do it in a laboratory and insert the embryo into the womb.

2. Shed Excess Weight

Research shows that having a higher body mass index of over 25 affects the health and count of the sperm. Studies suggest that losing weight increases semen volume, concentration, sperm motility, and overall health of the sperm.

You only need to lose a few kilograms, especially if you have a high body mass index[9], to improve sperm quality and sperm motility.

3. Do Regular Workouts

Some people hate exercise. But, studies show that you must stay active, eat healthily, and live healthily. Regular exercise tones your muscles and helps you perform better in bed. Still, it increases your sperm motility and quality.

You can do weightlifting and compound exercises to help improve your libido, performance, and sperm motility. Besides, workouts help you shed excess weight, which benefits sperm movement.

4. Don’t Abuse Drugs, Smoke, or Take Excess Alcohol

Doctors insist you must not take drugs like cocaine, anabolic steroids, heroin, cannabis sativa, and opium. Also, don’t smoke tobacco or take excess alcohol.

Stop using all these to boost your sperm motility and quality. Fortunately, you can combine quitting and counseling to move out of your drug addiction and save your fertility. Talk to a urologist to show you how to increase sperm motility.

Conclusion

Sperm mobility refers to the ability of sperm to move progressively to meet the ovum in the womb. Some men have a sperm motility range below 32%. Though some men with a low sperm movement can still father a child, many remain infertile.

A semen analysis can be performed if you can’t make your partner conceive. That way, you will know about the ejaculate volume, shape, concentration, motility, and count of your sperms. A low sperm motility range may be due to damage to the testes, drugs and alcohol abuse, genetic disorders, and varicocele condition.

Fortunately, there are many ways to increase sperm motility, both natural and medical. You can seek treatment, avoid drugs and alcohol, do regular workouts, and lose weight.

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