What causes poor sperm quality?

The concentration, motility and morphology of sperm all contribute to the chances of conception. As you might expect, there are multiple factors that determine sperm quality.

For example, a study by the Jerusalem Hebrew University has shown that the sperm concentration of men in Western countries has dropped by more than 50% in 40 years. Similar results have been recorded in other wide-ranging studies, worldwide. We know that a fifth of young men in the UK now have a low sperm count.

Scientists aren’t sure whether the decline is due to environmental factors, diet, or pollution. However, we do know that individual life choices can have a major impact on a person’s sperm quality.

For healthy sperm, the NHS recommends that men maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, and drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, which should be spread evenly over three days or more. Keeping sperm cool is also important, as heat can damage the quality of sperm

In addition to this, the amount of oxidative stress the body is under can affect sperm quality.

Maintain a healthy BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9.

Quit smoking. Whether you are male or female, this bad habit makes it more difficult to conceive.

Keep cool. The ideal temperature for sperm production is around 34.5°C, which is slightly below body temperature (37°C).

Cut alcohol consumption. Even in moderation, drinking can make it more difficult to conceive.

Make an effort to reduce oxidative stress. This has been identified as one of the many mediators of male infertility, as it causes sperm dysfunction.

What is oxidative stress and how does it affect male fertility?

Free radicals are reactive molecules with unpaired electrons that can attack and change other substances within the body and cause damage to cells.

Although it may be normal to have a low level of free radicals, excess free radicals known as Reactive Oxygen species (or ROS) must be inactivated by antioxidants in the semen if sperm are to function normally. Damage from ROS can affect the fluidity of cell membranes, affecting sperm motility as well as morphology. If the damage is severe enough, theoretically, it can even cause cell death, reducing the sperm count.

Find out what you can do to reduce oxidative stress.

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