You think you know, but when it comes to men's fertility and sperm health specifically, you probably have no idea. Here at Beli, we’ve had an education-first approach to men's fertility since day one and today we’re breaking down fact from fiction, sperm edition. Let’s see how you do!
1. Fact or fiction: Men produce sperm throughout their entire lifetime.
Fact–mostly. Men begin producing sperm once they hit puberty, and that sperm factory will run 24/7 for the rest of their lives.
2. Fact or fiction: Men’s sperm age slowly, so they don’t have to deal with the pressure of a biological clock.
Fiction! And yeah, we know it’s a shock. Everyone has heard stories of some old dude having children in his 80s, and that’s because a man’s ability to produce sperm doesn’t change with age–but the quality of that sperm definitely does. Advanced paternal age is associated with a higher risk of birth defects, developmental disorders, and miscarriage, regardless of his partner’s age, health or risk factors.
3. Fact or fiction: Like a team of All-Americans, all sperm are champion swimmers.
A few notes: Motility is a key parameter of sperm health, and the right prenatal nutrition can actually help improve sperm motility. What’s more, a man is considered fertile if just 40% of his sperm are motile.
4. Fact or fiction: Some sperm have two heads.
Fact! Wild, right? There are some seriously funky sperm out there, and the two-headed kind fall into the morphology deficiency category. This kind of abnormal sperm is often related to poor lifestyle choices, so embracing healthy habits and fueling up with the right micronutrients can be a game changer.
5. Fact or fiction: A man’s diet is reflected in the quality of his sperm.
Fact! And if you were paying attention, you already knew this one. But it’s not just what he’s eating. A man’s general lifestyle, including how often he exercises, how he manages stress, how much alcohol he drinks, whether he smokes, and his level of exposure to environmental toxins, all affect his health as a whole, which means they all affect the quality of his sperm.
6. Fact or fiction: Only one man in four has optimal sperm quality.
Fact! This was headline news a few years back, because it’s such an eye-popping ratio. Sperm quality is measured via multiple parameters, and just one man in four is hitting all of those markers.
7. Fact or fiction: Around the world, sperm counts are plummeting.
Fact again! Globally, average sperm counts fell over 62% between 1973 and 2018, and it seems to be getting worse. Experts are raising red flags about what this might mean for reproduction as a whole, and many are looking to potential causes such as environmental toxins and specific lifestyle choices.
8. Fact or fiction: Poor sperm quality increases the risk of birth defects and miscarriages.
Fact! Sperm carries the DNA blueprint for the placenta, which nourishes a growing baby during pregnancy. What’s more, oxidative damage to sperm DNA, or DNA fragmentation, can have a profound effect on a pregnancy’s viability and a growing baby’s health. One study found that the sperm of men whose partners had experienced recurrent miscarriages had significantly higher levels of DNA damage than men whose partners carried a pregnancy to term.
9. Fact or fiction: Men have the power to boost the quality of their sperm.
Fact! Research shows that the right nutrients, including but not limited to vitamins D, C, E, and CoQ10, during the three-part sperm maturation process support sperm across all health parameters. Specifically, sufficient amounts of these nutrients during the three to six months before conception are directly linked to improved sperm quality and a reduced risk of low sperm count and concentration, DNA fragmentation, and poor motility and morphology. We looked at all the available research to formulate Beli Vitality for Men to ensure our men’s prenatal had all the right nutrients in all the right amounts.
10. Fact or fiction: The life cycle of sperm is a one-month journey from cell formation to ejaculation.
Fiction! Sperm actually need about three months to fully mature in what’s known as spermatogenesis, or the sperm regeneration cycle. There are three phases:
- In phase one, diploid sperm cells divide into haploid spermatids, which carry genetic material.
- In phase two, hormones help spermatids mature in the testicles into spermatozoa. Sperm cells will remain in the testicles until they’re close to fully mature – at that point, they’ll have a head full of generic material and a tail.
- In phase three, mature sperm move into the epididymis, which is a storage tube that preserves sperm until ejaculation. While they’re here, they’ll also put that sperm to good use by becoming mobile.
11. Fact or fiction: Sports supplements do a number on male fertility.
Fact! Well, the jury is still out to some degree, but experts agree that a conservative approach is probably best here. Pre-workout supplements in particular are problematic because they’re generally loaded with sugar, caffeine, and other energy-boosters in such excess amounts, they can trigger side effects such as tremors, anxiety, even insomnia and high blood pressure. That’s not a great scenario for men hoping to become fathers.
12. Fact or fiction: Sperm carrying the Y chromosome swim faster.
Fact! Sperm carrying the Y chromosome really do swim faster than those with an X chromosome, because they carry less DNA. Some researchers theorize that the longer it takes to conceive, the greater the chances you'll have a boy.
13. Fact or fiction: Genetics affect male fertility.
Fact! And… fiction! This one actually goes both ways. There’s a difference between inherited infertility, which is caused by genetic conditions that have altered the chromosome, and infertility issues related to sperm DNA fragmentation. In that case, you’re dealing with modifiable male fertility factors that could be creating the problem. That’s where a high-quality men’s prenatal vitamin comes in. Paired with healthy habits like exercise, stress management, sufficient sleep, and minimizing exposure to environmental toxins, this kind of supplementation is a way to nourish sperm for the best chances of a healthy conception, pregnancy, and baby.
Interestingly, this approach to supporting male fertility may actually modify gene expression. While DNA is basically the hardwired code in our cells–it's the stuff we can’t change–epigenetic factors are like the instructions for expressing that code. By changing your behavior to improve your chances of a successful conception, you could actually be changing the DNA you pass down for the better.
So... how'd you do?!