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Sperm motility is the ability of sperm to move forward through a woman’s reproductive tract and reach her egg. This term is not meant to cover sperm’s genetic quality; it focuses entirely on movement. Sperm motility is very important for couples who are attempting to conceive children or even singles who are using donated sperm. If sperm does not swim properly, fertility problems are likely to occur.
In order for a woman to become pregnant, sperm must exit the male body, enter the vaginal canal, and swim through the cervix to enter the fallopian tubes. It is within a woman’s fallopian tube that one of the sperm fertilizes an egg in a successful conception. Though this may seem to be a short route to take to get to the egg, it is actually a long journey for tiny sperm and involves many obstacles. Many healthy sperm do not make it through the entire journey. For this reason, those who have problems that affect motility may be far less likely to fertilize, or even get close to, the egg.
There are different types of sperm motility problems. In some cases, there simply aren’t enough sperm in a semen sample that are actually swimming; sometimes there is hardly any movement at all. In other cases, sperm move through a woman’s reproductive system too slowly while other sperm move more quickly but fail to move forward properly. Instead of propelling themselves forward, they may actually swim in an erratic circular pattern. In fact, sperm that eventually make it into the fallopian tubes may be unable to fertilize an egg because of their erratic movements.
In order to determine whether sperm motility is at fault for fertility problems, a man typically has to provide semen samples, which are analyzed in a laboratory. Often, sperm is examined not only to check for problems with movement, but also to learn how many sperm are in the semen and whether or not they are shaped correctly. In some cases, there is no sperm present in semen or sperm may have a combination of problems.
There are some prescription drugs that may help to improve sperm motility, though success rates may vary. Many companies claim supplements and herbal remedies can help to improve sperm motility, but there is no iron-clad proof of this. There is some evidence, however, that suggests that eating healthier and avoiding drugs and alcohol may help improve male fertility. Likewise, keeping the scrotum from becoming overheated may help to ensure that sperm stays healthy.
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