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In a nutshell, the characteristics of healthy sperm can be summed up in three words: quantity, quality, and motility. Quantity of sperm, of course, refers to the amount, while the quality pertains to the sperm’s physical appearance. Motility, on the other hand, refers to the sperm’s movement. Healthy sperm is a good indication that a man’s reproductive system is in good shape, raising the probability of producing offspring. One can go to fertility clinics and laboratories to have his sperm tested and analyzed in order to know whether or not his sperm cells are healthy.
When it comes to the quantity of healthy sperm, fertility doctors say that a male should at least have 20 million sperm per milliliter per ejaculation. Very healthy reproductive systems can even produce about 40 million sperm cells per ejaculation. Laboratories refer to the quantity as the “sperm count.” In test results, some terms might be written down to refer to an “abnormal” sperm count, such as “oligozoospermia,” which means that the sperm count is less than 20 million per milliliter. “Polyzoospermia,” on the other hand, means that the there are too many sperm per ejaculation.
A healthy sperm cell should also have certain physical qualities for it to be considered healthy. In laboratories, sperm are stained with a dye for the analyst to detect certain characteristics that can tell a normal sperm cell from an abnormal one. Healthy, normal sperm cells will always have a “head” shaped like an oval, an unbroken “midpiece” or the middle section, and a tail that is uncoiled or untangled. These three parts have very important functions: the head, which is a little pointed, contains the sperm’s nucleus and is oval-shaped in order for it to penetrate the egg cell; the midpiece contains the mitochondria that give the sperm the energy to move; and the tail gives the sperm some propelling action so it can swim forward.
Aside from quantity and quality, motility is also an important characteristic of healthy sperm because this determines if the sperm can move by itself to reach the egg cell. When sperm enter the female body, there is initially a “wave” — due to the other liquid components of the semen — that the sperm can “ride through” for a while. After the wave, the sperm have to swim on their own. If test results contain terms like “asthenozoospermia,” it means the sperm are not as motile as they should be; the term “necrozoospermia” means that the sperm are not able to move at all.
There are many ways of improving sperm health, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and an intake of certain vitamins and minerals like zinc, iron, and vitamins B, C, and E. Males should also keep away from alcoholic drinks, cigarettes, and drugs, as these vices can negatively affect the production of healthy sperm cells. Many doctors also recommend avoiding heated tubs and steam baths, as the high temperature can kill sperm cells.