Hello #MomentumLovers! I'm Dr. Drai a board-certified OBGYN, sexual health expert, and founder of Momentum Intimacy. Through my FDA-approved condom & lubricant line called Momentum, I help people improve their intimacy and have a more satisfying sex life.
Human reproduction is surprisingly inefficient and quite complex — the likelihood of pregnancy within any given month is believed to be only 25 percent among fertile couples. Couples that are unable to achieve conception after a year of unprotected intercourse (or 6 months if the woman is over age 35) are said to be subfertile. It is different from infertility. A subfertile couple merely has lower odds of conceiving during any given month than fertile couples. 1 out of 12 couples have subfertility.
Male-related factors account for 40 percent of subfertility. Female-related factors account for another 40 percent and a combination of male- and female-related factors account for about 20 percent. About 90% of all subfertility can be traced to specific causes that can be treated.
Typical causes of male subfertility include:
• Sperm production problems
• Blockages in the sperm’s delivery system
• Injuries to the testicles
• Low or high hormone production
• Anatomical problems
• Varicocele (varicose veins around the testicle)
• Past illnesses/infections/various diseases
• Certain medications
Sperm quality is a contributing factor for 40 percent of couples experiencing infertility. While a woman is born with all the eggs she'll ever have, men produce sperm continually. Therefore, what a man does daily can affect the sperm maturation process.
Five main factors contribute to overall sperm quality. They include sperm motility, speed, count, concentration, and morphology (shape and size). A weakness in any of these areas can affect the chances of conception.
Sperm motility is a term that describes sperm's ability to move actively. When looking at healthy sperm, typically more than 50% are active with over 25% moving forcefully in one direction. Motility enables the sperm to travel through the cervical canal, into the uterus and the fallopian tubes, and, finally, to penetrate the egg.
The forward movement of sperm is called progressive motility, forward progression, or rapid linear progression. There are also several different ways to classify forward movement. According to the World Health Organization (1999), in a healthy male, greater than 25% of sperm will exhibit progressive motility. It is thought that these are the sperm with the best chance of successfully fertilizing an egg.
Sperm count refers to the number of sperm in the fluid that is ejaculated (semen). There are over 40 million sperm in a normal ejaculate. A total count below 40 million may indicate decreased fertility.
Concentration is a measure of the number of sperm cells in a milliliter of semen. The normal concentration is at least 20 million sperm cells per milliliter of semen.
Morphology (shape and size)
A healthy sperm cell will have a shape similar to a tadpole. The sperm’s oval head contains the genetic material, the center provides energy and the tail propels the sperm forward.
Using the strict criteria put forth by the World Health Organization (1999), studies of Assisted Reproductive Technology programs show lower pregnancy rates with less than 15% normal forms. Furthermore, experts believe that abnormally shaped sperm cannot fertilize an egg.
Motility, speed, and morphology appear to be the most important factors to assess the fertilizing capability of sperm. Despite a low sperm count, many men with high-quality (viable and highly mobile) sperm may still be fertile.
A man’s sperm quality begins to decline around the age of 25. Additionally, smoking, drinking, drugs, stress, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise all can contribute to poor sperm quality. It is important to seek medical attention for any fertility issues you may face.
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