Male Fertility: It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right

If you are like most couples, you are spending a lot of time, energy, and potentially a lot of money on testing and treating the woman. With 50% of infertility cases having some male factor, you might be missing the mark. Male factor infertility is cheaper and easier to diagnose and often can be addressed by naturopathic treatments such as diet improvements, herbal medicine, and a few choice supplements.

Testing for male fertility does seem to be a barrier for some men. Many labs and fertility clinics will now allow men to bring their semen sample in to the clinic rather than produce it on site, provided the specimen is maintained at body temperature and delivered in a timely manner. Check with your local lab for more information on specimen handling.

When sperm is tested, the lab looks at three main things: sperm count, morphology, and mobility.

Sperm count is the number of sperm observed in the sample. A normal result is considered above 39 million per ejaculate. Note that the median levels reported by the World Health Organization are 255 million per ejaculate. This means that when sperm count is below 255 million, it is below average.

Morphology refers to the shape of the sperm. Subpar morphology indicates DNA problems. A normal shaped sperm has a smooth oval head with a long tail attached to its base. Morphology of the sample is considered normal if 4% or more of the sample has this shape. Abnormalities that sperm might exhibit include a crooked double tail or a head malformation. The sperm tail propels it forward toward the egg for conception; if it is malformed, transit to the egg can be disrupted. The head of the sperm penetrates the egg; if it is malformed, penetration can be prevented.

Mobility refers to how the sperm are “swimming.” Good swimmers move quickly and in the correct direction while bad swimmers move slowly or not at all. Strong mobility is considered more than 50%.

Prevention Is the Best Cure

Common causes for problems with sperm include DNA damage, genetic predisposition, and hormone production. In a typical and uncomplicated case, all of the sperm issues — mobility, morphology, and count — can be improved.

Pesticides – Many studies have documented the effects that exposure to pesticides has on sperm. These chemicals can cause a decrease in sperm count and change in morphology and can affect testosterone production. It is important to eat organic whenever possible. Check out the EWG dirty dozen and clean fifteen to find out which foods are most important to get organic.

Bisphenol A – This chemical is found in plastics and is recognized by the body as an estrogen. Reduced exposure can improve sperm quality and count. Avoid eating or drinking out of plastic containers, limit your exposure to receipts (yes, receipts contain bisphenol A), and avoid using other plastic items as well, such as plastic forks and spoons and plastic bags.

Radiation – Get the laptops off the lap! Take the cell phone out of the pocket! Laptops and smart phones emit large amounts of radiation and should not be placed directly on top of or nearby the sperm production house, the testes.

Quit smoking – The chemicals in cigarettes are cellular oxidants and cause DNA damage. For the best quality sperm, don’t smoke!

Which Supplements Help?


found in colorful fruits and vegetables and can counteract the harmful effects of smoking, pesticides, and other DNA-damaging chemicals

L carnitine

amino acid regarded for improving sperm quality and sperm count

CO Q 10

potent antioxidant that can help improve sperm quality (commonly used, especially by older men)


South American herb that has been shown to improve libido, sperm quality, and sperm count (great fertility herb!)

No two people are alike. Improving sperm quality and count requires an individualized approach. To make an appointment with Dr. Elise, contact Blossom Clinic.

Blossom Clinic website
☏ 503.287.0886

It Takes Two

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