While published statistics tend to focus on the woman, it is important to note that male infertility diagnoses are just as common. In most cases, there is no obvious sign that a man is infertile without testing. The quality and quantity of his sperm are evaluated to determine the number and percentage that are healthy. When there is a low count or a high percentage of abnormal sperm the chances of the male’s sperm fertilizing an egg are lowered.
There are several ways in which a male’s sperm production can be considered abnormal, the most common being:
- Azoospermia when there is no measurable level of sperm in the semen.
- Oligospermia when there is a low concentration of sperm in the semen. Often times, exhibiting a higher percentage of abnormal sperm cells.
- Necrospermia when the sperm is either immobile or dead.
Causes Of Male Infertility
The most common causes of male infertility are:
- Sperm production as a result of genetic abnormalities, infections, chemicals or medications.
- Sperm transportation as a result of infections, prostate related problems and vasectomies.
To test a male’s fertility, a simple semen analysis is completed to measure the three major factors of sperm health: the count, the motility (movement), and the morphology (shape). A normal semen count ranges between 20 and 200 million. Motility and morphology are analyzed to determine the percentage of sperm that are shaped correctly and moving normally (within one hour of ejaculation). Ideally, more than 50% will be shaped normally and moving correctly.
Men can produce millions of new sperm each day, throughout most of their life, which then take 2 1/2 to 3 months to mature so they are able to swim and fertilize an egg.
Lifestyle changes can help improve a man’s sperm quality and quantity within 2-3 months.
Eating Healthy & Exercising
Obesity increases the likelihood of abnormal sperm cells. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a nutritious diet (including foods high in antioxidants) can improve sperm health.
Quit Smoking & Reduce Alcohol Consumption
While studies show smoking doesn’t cause permanent damage to sperm it does decrease the count, and quality of the shape and movement of the sperm cells. Studies show consuming large quantities of alcohol can lower sperm health. Excessive drinking is also linked to erectile dysfunction which lowers the chances of a pregnancy.
Limit Heat Exposure
Sperm health may be temporarily affected by frequent, direct, and long exposure to heat. Limiting time in saunas and hot tubs and placing a barrier between a laptop and lap can reduce this risk.
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