The Importance of Sperm Morphology for Fertility and Conception

Male fertility has made headlines lately, and the news isn’t great. It turns out that worldwide sperm health has been in decline for the last several decades. Scientists believe the main culprits are the presence of hormone-disrupting chemicals in the environment, and lifestyle factors like diet and exercise. What’s a guy to do?

Lots, actually! Knowledge is power, and educating yourself about the different dimensions of sperm health can point you to the support you need to improve your fertility and overall health. 

Here’s what you need to know about sperm morphology, a key dimension of sperm health, plus concrete steps you can take to improve your fertility.

What is Sperm Morphology?

When you get your fertility checked, your doctor orders a semen analysis. Sperm are examined under a microscope for quantity, or sperm count. The doctor also assesses two main dimensions of quality: motility, the sperm’s swimming ability, and morphology. 

Morphology is the technical term for the shape of your sperm. Fertility doctors use data from the sperm of thousands of men to determine the range of normal for measurements for size and shape. Your sperm is compared to these normal ranges and scored for what percentage appear normal for size and shape.

Sperm morphology matters for couples who want to conceive because the shape of a sperm affects its ability to penetrate and fertilize an egg. In several studies, higher percentages of abnormally shaped sperm have been associated with lower rates of fertility. Luckily, recent studies have also illuminated key nutrition interventions that can measurably improve sperm health.

What Causes Poor Morphology? 

There are many factors that can impair sperm morphology:
  • DNA abnormalities: If the DNA does not condense properly due to missing or added chromosomes, the shape of the head may be abnormal (not all abnormal sperm contain chromosomal defects)
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Genetic trait
  • Chemical exposure
  • Increased testicular temperature
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Caffeine
  • Certain medications
    • Chemotherapy drugs
    • Radiation treatments
    • Testosterone injection
  • Harmful nutrient supplements
    • Supplements containing DHEA or “andro”

Nutrition For Poor Sperm Morphology

Since many of the factors that can impair male fertility are fixable, sperm morphology can be improved without medications. Studies show there is a relationship between sperm shape and caffeine, alcohol and tobacco use. So while trying to conceive, staying away from these may be beneficial to the functionality of sperm. Obesity has also been associated with problems with sperm production, so it is important to maintain a healthy diet and normal body weight while trying to conceive.

Vitamins may also benefit sperm and improve morphology. Some vitamins proven to be beneficial to sperm morphology include: Vitamins C & E, Coenzyme Q10, Arginine, L-carnitine, Folate, and Zinc.

Since the ultimate goal of sperm is to fertilize an egg, the best way to achieve that goal is to be in the best shape possible. It is important to remember the life cycle of sperm is fairly long. Therefore, it may take up to 3 months for morphology scores to improve after lifestyle changes have been made.

Understanding the fertility impact of lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise is empowering, because decisions about how you move and how you fuel are in your hands. New sperm are born every day. No matter where you are today, you can help improve your fertility with evidence-based nutrition.

We made Beli to empower couples with science-backed fuel for fertility support. Beli for Men is a preconception and prenatal vitamin formulated to help raise sperm count and improve sperm morphology and motility, so you can conceive a healthy baby.

Here’s to your fertility! Getting focused on fatherhood and family? Get Beli.

Additional Resources

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