Sperm morphology refers to the proper formation of the sperm – essentially the size and shape. You will be familiar with the image of a normal sperm with an oval head with a long tail. In comparison, abnormal sperm have crooked or double tails or misshapen heads.
Sometimes abnormal sperm can affect the ability of the sperm to reach and fertilise the egg. Around half of couples who are struggling to conceive are facing poor quality sperm as a contributory factor. A high level of abnormal sperm is indicative of problems with the DNA within the sperm.
In addition to being a biological marker for infertility, emerging research has found that poor sperm quality may also increase the chance of miscarriage.
What can you do to improve sperm morphology?
Many methods of treating male infertility are invasive and costly. The first step should be to make simple but effective changes to your lifestyle to improve sperm morphology, including:
1. Avoiding heat exposure
Sperm morphology is affected by heat exposure. The ideal temperature for sperm production is around 1-2°C below body temperature. A number of everyday things can increase the temperature in the testes region, so should be avoided, including:
- Tight clothing
- Sitting at a desk for a long time
- Hot yoga
- Hot tubs
- Spending time with a laptop on your lap
2. Improving your diet
An unhealthy diet can lead to weight gain and contribute to the production of poor quality sperm.
Processed meats such as sausages, bacon and sandwich meats can impact the production of normally formed sperm, so look to buy local meat which has not been processed. Ingestion of free radicals can cause DNA damage and this, in turn can manifest itself in abnormal sperm morphology.
Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to include plenty of antioxidants to help protect sperm and fight free radicals which are linked to male infertility. Dark chocolate in moderation is also a good source of antioxidants and an amino acid proven to increase sperm volume.
Also eat food rich in zinc such as pumpkin seeds, turkey, oysters, mussels and lobster to increase healthy sperm production.
3. Include fertility supplements
Unfortunately, food alone is not enough – the responsibility of eating a certain number of particular foods each day would be an impossible task especially in certain seasons and when on the move. Fertility supplements should be high quality and easily absorbed.
These supplements should be combined with a healthy diet and can substantially improve sperm morphology. Adding supplements to your diet to improve sperm morphology and function will benefit natural conception and all forms of ART, such as In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), ICSI and Intrauterine Insemination (IUI).
4. Giving up cigarettes and alcohol
Smoking is directly linked to low sperm morphology. It has been found that the shape of the sperm is worse in smokers than non-smokers and chemicals in cigarette smoke does damage the DNA too.
Studies have also found that just five alcoholic drinks a week could lower sperm quality, so even modest, but habitual alcohol consumption can impact male fertility. The more alcohol drunk, lower the proportion of sperm of a normal size and shape. One study found that Those who typically drank 40 units a week had 51% less normal looking sperm.
5. Making moderate regular exercise a priority
Another study found that sperm morphology improved by 17% when men started to exercise regularly – particularly running regularly. It doesn’t cost anything to go out for a run, so this is a free, simple and effective way of improving sperm morphology.
Your fertility can reflect your overall health as it is strongly influenced by diet and lifestyle. By taking steps to improve sperm morphology, you will also be improving your general health.
Making these changes now will benefit you in the future too – potentially helping you to avoid diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and obesity as well as increase your chances of conceiving.