Home » Sexual Health » Men » Sperm Motility: Causes, Diagnosis, And More

Sperm Motility: Causes, Diagnosis, And More


Sperm is a male reproductive cell that helps in reproduction in humans through sexual intercourse.

Sperms have a head and a tail where the head stores all the components required to fuse with the female reproductive cell called the egg and the tail helps in motility.

This process results in the reproduction of offspring identical to the male and female. Reproduction is a vital part of the human life cycle.

It also plays an essential role in the evolution of human beings. Hence, it calls for the better health of both the egg and the sperm.

We are aware that men and women are way different from each other. Therefore, the classification of healthy reproduction in men and women is likewise different.

Womb health in women, as well as sperm health in men, is very crucial to have a successful reproduction process.

When it comes to men, sperm motility plays a very vital role in determining the sexual health of men.

This article will focus on everything related to sperm motility and how it plays an integral role in a male’s sexual health.

What Is Sperm Motility?

Sperm motility, as the name suggests, refers to the ability of sperm to move efficiently and effectively.

A sperm’s motility has to be very efficient to move through the woman’s reproductive tract and reach the egg to fertilize it. Thus, it is considered[1] important for penetration.

Besides many other factors, bad sperm motility can cause infertility in men too.

There are two types of sperm motility in men about the way an individual sperm swims.

Progressive motility is a form[2] of sperm motility in which the sperm travel and swim in broad circles or straight lines.

Similarly, non-progressive sperm motility describes the type of sperm motility in which the sperm swims in tight circles rather than in straight lines.

A sperm gets through the cervical mucus successfully, at a speed of 25 micrometers a second, with[3] progressive motility to fuse with the egg.

Sperm motility is considered poor if less than 32 Percent of sperms can move efficiently.

Effect Of Sperm Motility On Fertility

Sadly, a significant number of couples face infertility these days.

Based on defining infertility as a couple’s inability to conceive after several months of trying, the number of infertile couples is an enormous fraction.

Quite evidently, males’ inability to impregnate females accounts[4] for 40 to 50 percent of infertile partners, where about 7 percent of men are affected by the issue.

The usual causes[5] behind infertility in men come out to be deficiencies in sperm, of which the following are the most common-

  • Low Sperm Count
  • Poor Sperm Motility
  • Abnormal Sperm Shape

While low sperm count is considered the primary cause of this inability, poor sperm motility is the subsequent common deficiency found in men.

Causes of Low Sperm Motility

While there are plenty of reasons behind low sperm count, low sperm motility might have an unexplained cause.

Even so, the usual cause might be damage to the testicles, which might be due to infection, testicular cancer, testicular surgery, Disformity since birth, undescended testicles, and injury.

On the other hand, prolonged use of anabolic steroids might[6] also be the reason behind low sperm motility and count as well.

The use of drugs like cocaine and cannabis too negatively affects[7] the quality of semen in many ways further decreasing the motility of sperm.

According to this study[8], frequent smoking of more than 9 to 10 cigarettes has also been positively related to increased chances of reduced motility and fertility in men. 

A condition[9] of enlarged veins of the scrotum called varicocele is possibly the last possibility behind low sperm motility.


Semen analysis has detected[10] that a massive statistic of 9 out of 10 men has fertility problems.

The test is extensively taken forward to test the formation of sperm and how they interact in seminal fluid.

You take this test after collecting[11] the sample through masturbation, where test subjects are asked to abstain from sex for 2 to 7 days before the test to get a good volume of semen.

The semen sample is obtained in a sterile container.

The sample can be collected in a collection facility or sometimes at home. The analysis needs to start within an hour of collection.

Another method of collecting the semen is through sexual intercourse where specially designed condoms are used to collect the same or by withdrawing before ejaculation.

Commercial condoms refrain from use because they might taint the sperm with spermicides.

Usually, two samples are taken for a proper diagnosis and if progressive sperm motility comes out to be less than 32 percent, then the man is diagnosed[2] with low sperm motility.

How To Improve Sperm Motility?

Sperm motility and all the other deficiencies majorly can be reversed and set right again. Changing your questionable lifestyle choices can help you improve sperm motility.

Other ways to improve sperm motility may include-

  1. Smoking is one of the major[12] factors causing this problem. Thus it is strictly recommended to avoid smoking to improve your sperm motility. Recreational drugs like cannabis, opiates, and other drugs must also be avoided[13] especially when trying to conceive to improve sperm motility.
  2. Doctors also recommend losing a good amount of weight and staying fit since overweight men tend to face the same problem as well.
  3. The temperature of the scrotum plays an important role[14] in sperm quality whereas a high temperature of the scrotum decreases the quality and motility of sperm.
    Therefore, it is highly recommended to keep your scrotum temperature just below body temperature. This can be achieved[15] by wearing loose-fitting underwear and the pubic region cool.
  4. Other changes in lifestyle like avoiding sitting for a long time and walking could help immensely in improving the condition.
  5. Besides this, no therapies are recommended to help improve your sperm motility since none have yet been proven to help improve the condition.

Options Available To Conceive In Case Of Low Sperm Motility

Since poor sperm motility is improved[16] by changing your lifestyle, there are few treatments through which you can conceive a baby if there is no improvement in the infertility of men.

These treatments are not related to improving your sperm motility but to help you conceive through laboratory treatments artificially-

  1. Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

    Intrauterine insemination is a procedure also known[17] as artificial insemination where sperm is collected and washed.

    After that, the fastest-moving sperm is inserted into the woman’s womb through a fine plastic tube.

  2. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

    In vitro fertilization is the most famous treatment used[18] to artificially create a baby inside the woman’s womb.

    In this procedure, the woman is medicated to increase the production of eggs in the womb.

    These eggs are then removed from the ovaries and fertilized with the sperm in the laboratory. The resultant embryo is then inserted inside the woman’s womb again.

  3. Sperm Donation

    Sperm Donation is also one of the most famous treatments used to conceive a baby.

    In this procedure, the couple wishing to conceive is taken through in vitro fertilization.

    Here, sperm from a sperm donor is used to fertilize the egg, released by a woman’s ovary in the laboratory.

    These treatments are recommended after a couple is declared infertile after a diagnosis is taken thoroughly once the couple is unable to conceive after 12 months of trying.

Mobility Evaluation

The motility of sperm can be evaluated[19] through a few of the following methods-

  • Percentage Motile: This refers to the percentage of all sperms in a single ejaculation.
  • Percentage Motile Concentration: This refers to the percentage of sperm that are moving in one measurement of semen. The measurement unit of this is considered millions of cells per mL.
  • Total Motile Sperm Count (TMSC): This refers to the number of sperm swimming in a single ejaculation.
  • Average Path Velocity (VAP): This refers to the speed of movement of sperms which is measured in microns per second.


Sperm and egg are the only reproductive cells responsible for conceiving a baby. To conceive both men and women need to be sexually healthy.

Sadly, these days the reproductive health of couples has been depleting, and the ratio of infertile couples is increasing. The majority of cases of infertility are witnessed from the side of males.

Many deficiencies may cause infertility in men out of which poor sperm motility is typical. It may be caused due to questionable lifestyle of the man, disease, or injury.

Luckily, these conditions are reversible and can be improved. Besides this, a couple can also opt for treatments to artificially conceive.


Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies.

  1. Yoshitaka Fujihara,Haruhiko Miyata, and Masahito Ikawa. Factors controlling sperm migration through the oviduct revealed by gene-modified mouse models. Exp Anim. 2018; 67(2): 91–104.
    Published online 2018 Jan 22. doi: 10.1538/expanim.17-0153
  2. S. S. Vasan. Semen analysis and sperm function tests: How much to test? Indian J Urol. 2011 Jan-Mar; 27(1): 41–48. doi: 10.4103/0970-1591.78424
  3. SEMEN ANALYSIS. Available from https://healthcare.utah.edu/fertility/treatments/diagnostic-testing/semen-analysis.php
  4. P D Kantartzi, Ch D Goulis, G D Goulis, et al. Male infertility and varicocele: myths and reality. Hippokratia. 2007 Jul-Sep; 11(3): 99–104.
  5. Emad Babakhanzadeh, Majid Nazari, Sina Ghasemifar, et al. Some of the Factors Involved in Male Infertility: A Prospective Review. Int J Gen Med. 2020; 13: 29–41. Published online 2020 Feb 5. doi: 10.2147/IJGM.S241099
  6. Rabih El Osta, Thierry Almont, Catherine Diligent, et al. Anabolic steroids abuse and male infertility. Basic Clin Androl. 2016; 26: 2.Published online 2016 Feb 6. doi: 10.1186/s12610-016-0029-4
  7. Andrea Sansone, Carla Di Dato, Cristina de Angelis, et al. Smoke, alcohol and drug addiction and male fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018; 16: 3. Published online 2018 Jan 15. doi: 10.1186/s12958-018-0320-7
  8. Badereddin Mohamad Al-Ali , Klaus Eredics. Synergistic effects of cigarette smoking and varicocele on semen parameters in 715 patients. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2017 Jul;129(13-14):482-486. doi: 10.1007/s00508-017-1199-6. Epub 2017 Apr 24. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28439698/
  9. Stephen W. Leslie; Hussain Sajjad; Larry E. Siref. Varicocele. Last Update: May 27, 2022. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448113/
  10. Naina Kumar and Amit Kant Singh. Trends of male factor infertility, an important cause of infertility: A review of literature. J Hum Reprod Sci. 2015 Oct-Dec; 8(4): 191–196. doi: 10.4103/0974-1208.170370
  11. Semen Analysis. Available from https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/semen-analysis/
  12. Jason R. Kovac, Abhinav Khanna, and Larry I. Lipshultz. The Effects of Cigarette Smoking on Male Fertility. Postgrad Med. 2015 Apr; 127(3): 338–341. Published online 2015 Feb 19. doi: 10.1080/00325481.2015.1015928
  13. Damayanthi Durairajanayagam. Lifestyle causes of male infertility. Arab J Urol. 2018 Mar; 16(1): 10–20. Published online 2018 Feb 13. doi: 10.1016/j.aju.2017.12.004
  14. Mei-Hua Zhang, Zhi-Da Shi, Jian-Chun Yu, et al. Scrotal heat stress causes sperm chromatin damage and cysteinyl aspartate-spicific proteinases 3 changes in fertile men. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2015 May; 32(5): 747–755. Published online 2015 Feb 22. doi: 10.1007/s10815-015-0451-0
  15. W G Sanger, P C Friman Fit of underwear and male spermatogenesis: a pilot investigation Reprod Toxicol. 1990;4(3):229-32. doi: 10.1016/0890-6238(90)90063-2. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2136041/
  16. Rakesh Sharma, Kelly R Biedenharn, Jennifer M Fedor, et al. Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2013; 11: 66.Published online 2013 Jul 16. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-11-66
  17. Gautam N. Allahbadia Intrauterine Insemination: Fundamentals Revisited J Obstet Gynaecol India. 2017 Dec; 67(6): 385–392.Published online 2017 Oct 25. doi: 10.1007/s13224-017-1060-x
  18. In vitro fertilization (IVF) Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007279.htm
  19. David Mortimer, Sharon T Mortimer Manual methods for sperm motility assessment Methods Mol Biol. 2013;927:61-75. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-038-0_7. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22992904/

Leave a Comment

Working For Health

Working4health provides health news and health information which is backed by science.


Working For Health

#7293, 66 W Flagler Street STE 900 , Miami, FL 33130, United States