Sperm Motility and Fertility

Male Infertility


Aug 06, 2021

Sperm motility is known as the ability of the sperm to move efficiently. Sperm motility and fertility go hand in hand. For fertility, it plays a vital role because sperm need to move through the woman’s reproductive tract and reach to the egg to fertilize it. Poor sperm motility can be a reason for male infertility.  

So in this article, we will look into the impact of sperm motility on fertility, as well as the causes and what can be done to improve it. 

What is Sperm Motility?

Sperm motility is the ability of sperm to move or swim efficiently through the female reproductive system as to fertilize an egg. Here are two general types of sperm motility, referring to the way they swim:

  • Progressive Motility: It refers to sperm that swims in a mostly straight line or large circles.
  • Non-progressive Motility: It refers to sperm that do not move in straight lines or that swim in very tight circles.

In order to successfully fertilize and egg, sperm must have progressive motility wherein they move at least 25 micromoters per second, through the cervical mucus to fertilize an egg. 

Poor sperm motility or also known as asthenozoospermia is diagnosed when less than 32 percent of the sperm are able to move efficiently. 

Signs of A Healthy Sperm

The standard semen analysis looks into the following parameters to mark the sperm healthy:

  • Semen volume should be 1.5 (ml)
  • Total sperm number should be 39 (million per ejaculate)
  • Sperm concentration should be 15 (million per ml)
  • Progressive motility should be at least 32 (percent)
  • Sperm morphology 4 (normal %)
  • Vitality 58 (live sperm, %)

You should be aware that these parameters are commonly measured ones. Other factors may also contribute like DNA fragmentation or DNA decondensation

If an abnormality is seen in any of these factors it can lead to male-factor infertility. 

How Does Sperm Motility Affect Fertility?

Around the world, nearly 60 to 80 million couples are affected by infertility, and the ranges vary from country to country. 

It is considered male factor infertility when there is an issue with the man’s biology and it makes him unable to impregnate a woman. It contributes to nearly 40 to 50 percent of infertility cases and affects 7 percent of men. 

Male infertility is usually due to deficiencies in the semen, some of the most common factors are:

  • Low sperm count or oligospermia
  • Poor sperm motility
  • Abnormal sperm shape or teratospermia

It is said that nearly 90 percent of male infertility is due to low sperm count, besides poor sperm motility is also an important factor.

Causes of Low Motility

Sometimes, it becomes difficult to pinpoint the cause of low sperm motility. There are some other factors also that contribute to low sperm motility. Anything that cause damage or puts stress on testicles can also have a negative impact on sperm motility. Some of the common causes are:

  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Testicular Surgery
  • Testicular Cancer
  • Undescended Testicles
  • A genetic cause
  • An undiagnosed medical condition

Additionally, a condition called varicocele (enlarged veins present in the scrotum) also affects sperm quality. Other factors contributing to low sperm count and sperm motility are smoking, cannabis, opiates, cocaine, use of certain herbal medicines, and long term use of anabolic steroids. 

Sperm Motility Range Chart 

Here is the healthy or normal semen analysis result that is determined by the World Health Organization (WHO). These results can vary from person to person, thus results are given as a range. 

Total Sperm Count in the Ejaculate 39-928 million
Ejaculate Volume 1.5 – 7.6 ml
Sperm Concentration 15 – 259 million per ml
Total Motility (Progressive & Non-Progressive) 40-81 percent
Progressive Motility 32 – 75 percent
Sperm Morphology 4- 48 percent


These ranges are beneficial in understanding what should be the sperm analysis to impregnate a woman. And what should be the sperm motility percentage to get pregnancy

What does High Sperm Count but Low Motility Mean?

It means the overall health of the sperm is fine but it has low motility so it cannot swim properly and reach the egg for fertilization. In such cases it is still possible make a your spouse pregnant using a reproductive technology like in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI). This is because they bypass the need for the sperm to swim on their own. 

What Should be the Sperm Motility Percentage for Pregnancy?

For sperm to travel through the cervical mucus to fertilize an egg, it is necessary for them to have progressive motility of at least 25 micrometers a second. The sperm motility should be at least 40% for a man to be fertile. 

How is Motility Diagnosed?

Semen analysis is the most basic and useful test, and it is helpful in detecting 9 out of 10 men with fertility issue. This test helps assessing the formation of the sperm, as well as how they interact in the seminal fluid. 

Usually the sample is collected by masturbation. Prior collecting the sample the man is asked to abstain from sex for 2 to 7 days as to increase the volume of semen. 

It is necessary to collect the whole ejaculated sample in a sterile container to ensure that the test results are complete.

Usually the sample is collected in a private room at the doctor’s office. Although in some cases the sample is collected at home but in such scenarios the sample need to be delivered at the lab within an hour.

This sample should not be kept at fridge and doctors recommend keeping it near the body as to keep it at body temperature at the time of transportation. This ensures the quality when analysed.  

Often samples can vary for different reasons, including the length of abstinence from intercourse and illness. Thus tow samples are collected. These samples may be anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks apart.

In the analysis if the percentage of progressively motile sperm is less than 32 percent, it is said to have poor sperm motility.

How to Increase Sperm Motility?

There are lifestyle choices people can make to improve the quality of sperm. Here are some of the things to follow to enhance the quality of sperm:

Stop Smoking

For fertility quitting smoking is the best option. As per studies smoking has an impact on parameters thus affecting the sperm motility.

Recreational Drugs

Some of the drugs like cannabis, opiates, and amphetamines consumption also reduce sperm quality. Doctors recommend to people who are willing to conceive to avoid these drugs. 

Reduce Alcohol

Heavy drinking can lead to alter sperm motility besides, shape, size and count and testosterone levels.

Regular Exercise

According to a recent study people who regularly exercise have better sperm motility compared to the one who don’t do much exercise.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight with a body mass index of 25 or more can have bad impact on both the quality and quantity of sperm. As per studies losing weight can significantly increase sperm mobility, semen concentration, and volume.

Limit Mobile Phone Exposure

As per research it is said that radio frequency and radiation may have negative affect on sperm quality in men, like decrease in sperm motility, and count besides decrease in semen concentration and volume. In our daily life we need to use our mobile phones but limiting the use can cut down your exposure to radio frequency. 

Wear Loose Boxer Shorts

A study by Prof Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology, University of Sheffield, showed that men who wore loose boxer shorts, compared to tight pants, were less likely to have low motile sperm counts. He also advises that men having poor sperm quality should opt loose fitting boxer shorts to enhance their semen quality.

Treatment Options for Low Sperm Motility

If poor sperm motility is the primary reason behind your infertility, then there are some treatment options available those include:

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) 

It is also known as artificial insemination, In this IUI procedure sperm are being collected and washed. Now the fastest moving sperm are inserted into the womb with the help of fine plastic tube. This can help in low motility pregnancy success

In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

During IVF, medication is prescribed to the woman to increase the production of eggs, which are later removed from the ovaries and later it is fertilized in the laboratory with sperm. In the end, the developed embryo is placed back in the womb for further development. This is a way of getting pregnant with low sperm motility.

Sperm Donation

A person is willing to conceive can receive sperm donation with the help of the doctor for use in an IVF procedure. 

Any couple who is trying to conceive from a year but not able to should consult their doctor to check for any fertility issue. If you are detected with low sperm mobility then, sperm mobility treatment would help you to have a baby.


Sperm motility is the ability of the sperm to swim and reach the egg to fertilize it. There are many men who face the problem of sperm motility. It can be diagnosed with semen analysis test, where the complete analysis of sperm is performed. There are many ways improve sperm motility like maintaining a healthy life style, quitting smoking and so on. Many treatment options are also available such as IUI, IVF, and sperm donation. So you can opt any treatment option and get your spouse pregnant. 


How to get pregnant with low sperm motility?

There are several treatment options available to opt for if you are willing to get pregnant with low perm motility. For instance, IVF and IUI are helpful to get pregnant with low sperm motility.

What is zero sperm motility? 

When sperm is unable to move quickly and efficiently towards their desired destination, which is the egg, it is known as zero sperm motility.

Can you improve sperm motility?

As per recent studies it is said that supplementing Co-Q10 can improve sperm concentration along with motility in men. It is found that CoQ10 supplement is especially helpful for infertile men who are suffering from asthenozoospermia or poor sperm motility.

Can low sperm motility cause birth defects?

It is known that, sperm morphology affects sperm motility and can also increase risks of birth defect and serious health disorder.



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