Lets talk sperm

This commentary has been compiled with the objective of sharing some facts and opinions regarding sperm cells and sperm health. It is a question that often arises with recipients undergoing egg donation IVF. Even if you have healthy sperm, you can still add value by optimising your sperms health for IVF.


Making diet and lifestyle changes will take a little time before your reproductive system will reap the benefits. Allow 3 months before you look for changes in your sperm production. This is because it takes 90 days for a new sperm cell to grow from inception to maturity, when it is capable of fertilising for conception.

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 millilitre.

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% of your sperm are moving.

Being Proactive

Sperm can be especially vulnerable to environmental factors, such as exposure to excessive heat or toxic chemicals. To protect and improve your fertility:

Stay cool. Increased scrotal temperature can hamper sperm production. To protect your fertility, don’t wear tight underwear or athletic shorts. If you bike or remain seated for long

periods of time, take frequent breaks. Don’t place a laptop computer directly on your lap. Avoid hot tubs, saunas and steamy baths.

Don’t smoke. Men who smoke cigarettes are more likely to have low sperm counts. Smoking can also decrease sperm movement and cause sperm to be misshapen. If you smoke, ask

your doctor to help you quit.

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Heavy drinking can reduce the quality and quantity of sperm. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation.

Steer clear of illegal drugs. Like cigarettes, marijuana can decrease sperm movement and cause sperm to be misshapen. Cocaine and heroin also interfere with healthy sperm.

Avoid lubricants during sex. Personal lubricants — including saliva, most skin lotions, and K-Y jelly and similar products — can interfere with sperm movement. If necessary, use vegetable, safflower or peanut oil. You might also consider a lubricant such as Pre-Seed, which might be less likely to harm sperm.

Be cautious with medications. Calcium channel blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, antiandrogens and various other medications can contribute to fertility issues. Anabolic steroids can have the same effect. Chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatment for cancer can cause permanent infertility. If you’re considering medications, ask your doctor about the impact on your fertility — or the possibility of retrieving and storing sperm before treatment.

Watch out for toxins. Exposure to pesticides, lead and other toxins can affect sperm quantity and quality. If you must work with toxins, do so safely. For example, wear protective

clothing and equipment, and avoid skin contact with chemicals.


Approaching IVF

Men can also make adjustments to maximise reproductive potential of the IVF procedure:

Do not start any new exercise, sport or event training within 3 months of starting IVF and ensure that jogging is kept below 20 miles/ 30 kms, per week.

Avoid sexual intercourse for at least 4 days and not more than 7 days before sperm collection.

Avoid hot tubs and saunas for at least 3 months prior to treatment.

If you have any history of genital herpes you must report any symptoms or lesions, as lesions in either the male or the female will require cessation of the treatment.

If you have a fever 1-2 months before treatment cycle, take your temperature and notify your doctor as the fever may adversely affect sperm quality.



These guidelines are intended to help increase sperm count and improve fertility.

Resolve, the National Infertility Association, claims that a man’s diet might affect the movement abilities of his sperm. It recommends that men consume foods like green vegetables, sweet potatoes, kiwi and cantaloupe to boost sperm motility. Dutch researchers found that two diets improved semen quality in men participating in IVF. One diet, called the health conscious diet, was high in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. The other diet, dubbed the traditional Dutch diet, consisted of meat, potatoes and whole grains but excluded sweets and alcoholic beverages. Both diets were recommended as beneficial to maintain sperm health during IVF cycles



• Make sure you are eating natural foods that focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These are fertility boosting foods and all around good foods for your body.

Drink up on water. It will keep your system hydrated and flushed, which is essential for sperm production. • Eliminate processed and refined foods. All that good junk food such as candy, potato chips, lunch meats, etc… should be reduced or eliminated if possible. Put fresh stuff if your body, not man made chemically driven foods.

Use olive oil instead of margarine or other saturated and hydrogenated fats.

Eat up on pumpkin seeds. This is a great snack that is high in zinc and essential fatty acids, which are a key component to the male reproductive system. 1/4 to a 1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds to give your reproductive systems a boost.

Get plenty of antioxidants that rid your body of toxins that can cause harm to sperm production. Many berries are great sources of antioxidants such as blueberries. Sweet potatoes and Kiwi fruit are also suggested to assist.



Take a multivitamin if you are not already doing so. You need all of the right vitamins and minerals for a properly functioning reproductive system.



• Arginine – Needed to produce sperm. If the sperm count is too low, arginine probably will not provide much help.

• Coenzyme Q10 – Helps to increases sperm count and motility.

• Flaxseed oil – This is a great source of essential fatty acids.

• L-carnitine – Helps create normal sperm function.

• Selenium – Helps improve sperm motility (upward movement of sperm).

• Vitamin B-12 – Not getting enough B-12 can reduce sperm motility and sperm count.

• Vitamin C – Drink your OJ! It’s an antioxidant.

• Zinc – Zinc promotes healthy male reproductive systems and helps in sperm production.


Please note:

As with anything, make sure you seek medical advice from a fertility specialist beforehand. Your doctor will know how to provide the best solutions for your individual fertility situation.

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