Can The Use of Lubricants Affect Sperm Quality?

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When it comes to male fertility, the quality of sperm plays a crucial role in determining a male’s ability to inseminate a female’s egg. Sperm quality is an umbrella term that is used to describe the amount of sperm in a semen sample and also the morphology and motility of sperm.


How to Measure Sperm Parameters

Sperm parameters are measured via a semen analysis. This analysis is usually done when a male produces a semen sample that is sent to the laboratory to be analysed. They look at the total semen volume, the concentration of sperm in the sample, as well as sperm structure and motility.

Why are Sperm Parameters Important?

These parameters are an important diagnostic tool, especially for men experiencing fertility-related problems. When a male has 15 million or more sperm per millilitre in a semen sample, it is seen as a good and healthy sperm count. When sperm structure and motility are also within range, a man will have good-quality sperm and will theoretically not struggle to get a female pregnant.

These parameters are used as a first-line diagnostic for patients stating that they are struggling to get pregnant. The semen analysis usually gives a good overview of where the possible problem might be with a male’s fertility. If the analysis is inconclusive or the doctor is not satisfied with the results, other tests may be requested.


Factors That Increase Sperm Quality

There are several aspects that can help to maintain high-quality sperm or even increase the quality thereof. These factors are as follows


Healthy Lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle includes maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) by exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. When men exercise, their bodies’ natural testosterone secretion increases. The testosterone stimulates the spermatogenesis process and causes an increase in the production of sperm. A healthy diet will include vegetables rich in antioxidants such as kale and spinach, to reduce oxidative stress that can suppress the quality of sperm. A healthy diet will also include a balance of vegetables, whole grain foods and healthy fats while excluding processed meats and sugar.

Staying healthy and active can decrease an individual's chance of getting diabetes or cardiovascular disease, which in turn can have detrimental effects on sperm quality and a male’s fertility status.


Abstain from Smoking

Smoking nicotine-containing products can have negative effects on a male’s reproductive health. It can cause changes in the sperm’s DNA and can even lead to erectile dysfunction. This happens due to the nicotine’s action on blood vessels causing it to constrict. The good news is that the damage that smoking can do to a male’s fertility can be reversed when a male abstains from smoking. Healthy sperm can return within an average period of 3-5 months after abstaining from smoking.


Moderate Alcohol Consumption

Excessive alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on sperm parameters and sperm quality, eventually resulting in low fertility. Alcohol can disturb the spermatogenesis process and lead to testicular atrophy, causing a decrease in sperm production. Alcohol can also have a negative effect on the DNA present in sperm. The good news is that moderate alcohol consumption has little to no negative effect on sperm quality and if there is any damage done it is reversible after a period of no alcohol consumption.


Vitamin D and Zinc Supplements

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that humans get from sunshine. It affects the production of sperm indirectly. When men have a vitamin D deficiency, they might experience a decrease in sperm production and poorer sperm quality. But vitamin D can be increased via sunshine or Vitamin D supplements.

Zinc, on the other hand, is a microelement found in seminal fluid. Zinc can act as an anti-inflammatory, which is important during the spermatogenesis process and is also found in the tail of sperm where it plays a vital role in sperm motility. Optimal zinc levels can help to improve sperm quality.


How Lubricants Affect Male Fertility

It might not be common knowledge to society, but studies have found that the use of lubricants during sexual intercourse may have negative effects on sperm parameters and sperm quality. Lubricants are often used during sexual intercourse to prevent painful and uncomfortable intercourse. Some fertility clinics even use lubricants for sperm collection used for Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART)Studies have found that lubricants usually affect the viability of sperm and the motility of sperm. Thus it can cause a decrease in viable sperm and a decrease in motility, making it harder for sperm to inseminate a female’s ovum, eventually resulting in low sperm quality and poor fertility.


Couples who are struggling to conceive and who are using lubricants need to consult their doctor regarding the possible effects that the lubricants might have on their chances of getting pregnant.

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