How to determine if you have low sperm motility?

An obvious sign of low sperm motility is failure to conceive a child. When you see a doctor for this reason, he or she might look into reasons as to why this may be. Even if you might suspect low sperm count or low sperm motility, your doctor will want to evaluate your partner to rule out other contributing factors. Your doctor will also see whether assisted fertility methods may be required.

Our focus of this article is on low sperm motility as a factor in male factor infertility.

Low sperm motility is assessed as part of a semen analysis test. A semen analysis test is a procedure that assesses sperm count, motility, morphology, amongst others. It starts with a sperm sample.

There are a few ways in which semen samples can be collected. A semen sample can be provided by masturbating and ejaculating into a semen sample during your doctor visit. At times, religious beliefs may prevent you from doing so. In this case, doctors will provide you with a special condom that can collect a semen sample during sexual intercourse.

Sperm motility is usually assessed by looking at diluted semen samples under a microscope. The lab technician then counts the number of sperms that appear to be motile. 

When evaluating sperm motility, sperm are either considered non-motile, non-progressively motile, or progressively motile. A non-motile sperm doesn’t swim. A non-progressively motile sperm swims, but in circles. A progressively motile sperm swims in a straight line and forwards.

But, is swimming in a straight line enough to be considered “efficient” swimmers? Sperm that can progress forward with speeds of at least 25 micrometers per second are considered efficient sperm. Having 40 percent of efficient sperm is enough for efficient motility, according to the World Health Organization (page 41).

If efficient sperm comprises less than 32 percent (in a given sperm sample), your doctor may diagnose you with low sperm motility (asthenozoospermia).

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