Low sperm motility can be caused by a number of factors including diet, medications, and the use of substances like alcohol and tobacco. A doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes for a couple trying to get pregnant to see if these resolve the issue. It is important to be aware that sperm take several months to develop and people may not notice an immediate change if they follow medical recommendations. If simple measures don't result in pregnancy, more aggressive screening and treatment can be discussed.
Sperm motility is an assessment of how quickly and vigorously the sperm move. In a typical healthy sample, at least 50% of the sperm should exhibit forward movement. The quality of the movement can be graded, allowing doctors to differentiate between sluggish, poorly coordinated sperm and robust movers. Men with more motile sperm have a better chance of getting their partners pregnant, especially if the sperm are also highly active.
One common cause of low sperm motility is diet. Men who do not get adequate vitamins and minerals may not be able to produce healthy sperm. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables can help, as can adding supplements to ensure that sperm are supplied with the nutrients they need. Nutritionists can provide consultations and advice for patients who are not sure about how to eat to increase fertility, or how to meet specific dietary needs.
Medications can also play a role. Many prescription drugs, particularly psychoactive drugs used in the management of mental illness, have an effect on sperm. Some medications decrease motility and others are linked with birth defects. Patients with fertility concerns should discuss all the medications they use to determine if any are likely culprits for the problem. The doctor may recommend a temporary switch of medications.
Drugs beyond medications are also linked with low sperm motility. Alcohol, tobacco, and many recreational drugs all have an impact on sperm quality, including the level of movement. Temporary cessation or reduction of use may boost sperm motility. Patients with concerns about their sperm motility should be sure to disclose all the drugs they use; this information is confidential and a doctor will not report the patient.
If low sperm motility persists after ruling out obvious potential causes, the patient may have other medical problems. The doctor can request another sperm analysis and may request a blood sample as well. This can provide more information about why a man might be infertile, which can be useful for treatment. It may still be possible to achieve a pregnancy with the man's sperm through tools like in vitro fertilization.