Healthy sperm: Improving your fertility

Healthy sperm aren't always a given. Understand how lifestyle factors can affect your sperm and what you can do to improve your fertility. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Do your sperm pass muster?

If you and your partner are planning a pregnancy, you might be wondering about the health of your sperm. Start by understanding the various factors that can affect male fertility — then consider steps to help your sperm become top performers.

What determines sperm health?

Sperm health depends on various factors, including quantity, quality and movement:

  • Quantity. You're most likely to be fertile if your ejaculate — the semen discharged in a single ejaculation — contains more than 15 million sperm per milliliter.
  • Quality. Normal sperm have oval heads and long tails, which work together to propel them forward. The more sperm you have with a normal shape and structure, the more likely you are to be fertile.
  • Movement. To reach and penetrate an egg, sperm must move — wriggling and swimming through a woman's cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes. This is known as motility. You're most likely to be fertile if more than 40 percent of your sperm are moving.

What's the best way to produce healthy sperm?

You can take simple steps to increase your chances of producing healthy sperm. For example:

  • Practice safe sex. Sexually transmitted infections — such as chlamydia and gonorrhea — are a leading cause of infertility for both men and women. To protect yourself, limit your number of sexual partners and use a condom each time you have sex — or stay in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who isn't infected.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Choose plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants — and might help improve sperm health.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Some research suggests that obesity negatively affects sperm quality, reducing both sperm count and sperm movement.
  • Manage stress. Stress can decrease sexual function and interfere with the hormones needed to produce sperm.
  • Get moving. Include physical activity in your daily routine.
May. 05, 2012 See more In-depth