What Healthy Sperm Looks Like—Plus 7 Ways to Keep It Healthy

You're probably doing half of these already.

sperm world
Toshiro ShimadaGetty Images

Ever wonder if what you’re looking at when it comes to your own sperm is normal? Turns out an at-home once-over probably won’t tell you much of anything. Even if everything does appear normal and healthy on the surface, you can’t really tell whether your sperm is healthy just by looking at it. Scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider to perform a semen analysis is the only way to find out for sure.

“A sperm specimen needs to be collected and looked at through a microscope to evaluate if it's healthy,” says Kaylen Silverberg, a reproductive endocrinologist at Texas Fertility Center in Austin, Texas. “That's because the factors that indicate healthy sperm can't be seen with the naked eye.” When it comes to analyzing your sperm to determine if it’s healthy enough, this once again isn’t something you can do on your own outside of a lab analysis.

According to the World Health Organization, a normal semen analysis consists of a sperm concentration of about 16 million/cc semen, a motility of at least 30%, and at least 4% normally shaped sperm. That’s what doctors look for in said lab analysis.

Until that appointment rolls around, look at your lifestyle, because a healthier you generally makes for healthier sperm.

Your doctor should keep you informed as to whether everything looks good, but you can always ask about these factors either during your visit or when you get your lab results. In the meantime, there are several lifestyle factors that can affect your sperm quality, and fortunately, a lot of them are within your control and can make a difference in as little as three months.

So, what does healthy sperm look like?

sperm cells or spermatozoa, immunofluorescent photomicrograph, organs samples, histological examination, histopathology on the microscope
Sebastian CondreaGetty Images

According to Dr. Silverberg, when it comes to healthy sperm, what you doctor is primarily looking for are three factors: sperm count (the number of sperm in a volume of semen), sperm motility (the percentage of sperm that are alive and swimming), and sperm morphology (the percentage of sperm with a normal size and shape).

“[An] andrologist will take a look at the sperm under the microscope to see if they are using their tail to swim in a straight line,” explains Lauren Bishop, a reproductive endocrinology and fertility specialist at the Columbia University Fertility Center. “They will also look at the head to make sure this appears oval. The tail should be long and move smoothly through the fluid.”

Signs you have healthy sperm

It doesn't take forever to change the quality of your sperm. Some doctors say that changing your lifestyle might change your sperm quality within three months. Until you get your doctor's read on how healthy yours are, here are scientific signs that suggest you have strong sperm. How many can you cross off?

You have a smaller waist

young man tired after training showing his abdominal muscles
milan2099Getty Images

You don’t even have to have a six-pack—as long as you don’t have a gut, your semen is probably doing pretty well.

Researchers from the Netherlands found that men with a waist circumference of 40 inches or greater had lower sperm concentrations and counts of normal-moving sperm than guys with a more whittled waist.

The researchers aren’t exactly sure why a spare tire is bad for your swimmers. But they believe carrying too much weight—especially around your midsection—may interfere with the release of sex hormones, as well as the production and development of sperm.

You have a softer-looking face

Good news, average-looking guys! Having a masculine-looking mug might actually hurt you down below the belt, according to a 2014 study.

Don’t miss exclusive content. Join now!
.

Spanish and Finnish researchers discovered that men who had faces that were rated as manly—i.e. wider and broader—tended to have poorer semen quality than more feminine-faced guys.

One possible reason: a theoretical explanation called the “trade-off hypothesis.” Simply put, men have a fixed amount of energy available to devote to reproductive resources. And that energy must be distributed to a number of different components.

“So, if a male consumes more resources on semen production, he may have fewer resources available for developing attractive secondary sexual traits, like facial masculinity,” says study author Jukka Kekäläinen, Ph.D.

You love to eat fish

Quick, think of your favorite go-to protein: is it brown, salty, and processed? If so, your semen might be paying the price.

Harvard University researchers found that men who ate the most processed meat had significantly lower counts of normal-shaped sperm compared to those who consumed the lowest.

Fish, on the other hand, seemed to have a protective effect. Guys who ate the most fish—especially salmon and tuna—had a 65 percent greater sperm concentration than those who ate the least.

Credit fish’s omega-3s, since long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids play a part in sperm production, the researchers say. So if you’re looking to strengthen your swimmers, sub out your pepperoni topping for some anchovies.

Briefs aren't your thing

man drying head in bedroom
Robert NicholasGetty Images

Here’s another reason briefs might feel a bit on the constricting side: they could be suffocating your sperm, too.

A 2018 study from Harvard University’s Department of Environmental Health found that men who wore boxer shorts instead of tight-fitting underwear 25 percent higher sperm concentrations and 17 percent higher sperm counts than those who wear briefs.

“Loose-fitting underwear may result in lower scrotal temperatures compared to tight-fitting underwear, hence an improvement in semen quality,” says study author Andrew Povey, Ph.D. There’s also evidence that elevated testicular temperatures may hinder sperm production, he says. So if you want to be on the safe side, let your junk breathe.

You hit the gym regularly

man listening to earbuds in gymnasium
Inti St ClairGetty Images

Researchers from Harvard found that men who got their blood pumping in moderate to vigorous exercise 15 hours or more a week had a higher sperm concentration than guys who didn’t work out at that intensity at all.

Not only does exercise help tamp down your weight—which can affect reproductive health—but it may also increase the expression of antioxidants throughout your body, the researchers believe. So regular gym sessions could actually prevent free radicals from damaging sperm cells.

Your voice isn't super deep

Men with more of a throaty growl tend to have worse-off sperm, according to a University of Western Australian study.

Researchers found that while women rated the low-pitched voices as more masculine and attractive, those husky-voiced men had lower concentrations of sperm in their ejaculate.

Testosterone levels may be one possible explanation for this, according to study author Leigh Simmons, Ph.D. Testosterone is associated with more masculine facial features and lower voices, but too much of it might actually suppress sperm production.

You don't eat out of plastic

Zapping last night’s lasagna in a Tupperware container is easy, but it might be wreaking havoc on your sperm.

You can thank bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical that can leach from plastics into your food when heated—and then into you.

Researchers from Denmark found than men who had the highest levels of BPA in their urine had a significantly lower percentage of motile sperm than those who had the lowest levels.

The scientists aren’t exactly sure what’s behind the semen squeeze, but they think the BPA might affect the estrogen and androgen activity in the epididymis in the testicles. And this, they believe, can hinder the normal development of sperm.

So before you nuke your lunch, take the five seconds to transfer it from a plastic container to a glass one.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Penis