To celebrate Men’s Health month we approached one of My Surrogacy Journey’s experts, to tell us more about Sperm, and how to look after it. Over to you Sam!
👋 My name is Sam and I’m an Embryologist at the Lister Fertility Clinic. I have been asked, and welcomed the opportunity, to write to you about sperm health: how we measure it, and how individuals who produce sperm are able to preserve it.
Sperm, or spermatozoa, are a sex cell (gamete) that is produced by individuals that were assigned male at birth. Spermatogenesis is the process of sperm production. It takes approximately 70 days for one sperm cell to mature. This occurs in a cascade across the millions of sperm-producing cells contained in the testis so that sperm is always readily available. Like all cells in our body, sperm cells are prone to damage. There can be several reasons behind the damage occurring, both internally and externally. Your sperm health is something that you should be aware of. Especially if you are considering your fertility options, and can be discovered through simple, non-invasive tests. It is also something that can be improved through lifestyle changes.
In an andrology laboratory (a clinic that specialises in sperm-producing individuals), when we talk about sperm health we relate it to the three main characteristics of spermatozoa. These are density (or concentration, measured in millions per mL), motility (or movement, measured in a percentage) and morphology (or shape of the sperm, also measured in a percentage). Individuals who produce sperm should meet the minimum level in these three parameters for their sample to be considered ‘normal’.
- Density: should be 15 million sperm/mL or higher per sample
- Motility: the sample should have a total motility (to include progressive and non-progressive) of 40%. Motility is broken down into three categories to include –
- Progressive (sperm that swim with purpose)
- Non-progressive (sperm that swim, but in the same place)
- Immotile (sperm that do not move)
- Morphology: the sample should contain 4% normal forms or higher.
If testing comes back as ‘abnormal’, a consultation with a clinician may be useful. Research has shown that a large variety of factors can have a negative effect on sperm health. These include an unhealthy diet (especially in western cultures), obesity, chronic disease, environmental pollutants, and unhealthy habits (such as smoking). Stress, lack of sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle (such as desk-based work) can be detrimental. Changes in these factors could improve sperm health, but these changes will not happen immediately. It would require a consistent change over a number of months to provide any marked increase in quality.
It may also be the case that unfortunately an individual’s body is unable to, or has difficulty, producing sperm at a cellular level. In this scenario, it would be worthwhile contacting a Urologist to discuss further steps to take. This may include more invasive procedures, such as surgery.
If a person’s sperm health is in good form, they are worried about its potential decline or are just considering preserving fertility for the future, then cryopreservation is a very straightforward step to take. Sperm freezing is a technique that is offered by the majority of private andrology and fertility clinics in the UK. It is a non-invasive procedure that requires a blood test and consent beforehand. However, will leave patients with more options and freedom with their fertility in the future.
I know it can seem strange or embarrassing to talk about sperm health, but it’s a really important part of the fertility journey and there are lots of professionals and clinics that can support you.
Has this blog made you think more about your next steps? Why not contact with one of our Fertility Clinic partners in our Directory or reach out to The Lister for a Sperm Health check.