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Male fertility

Sperm quality

It only takes a single sperm cell to get pregnant, but the chances of a woman becoming pregnant are better if the sperm quality is high. It is important that you produce many sperm cells, that they are healthy and that they are capable of swimming all the way to the egg.

At European Sperm Bank, we look at various parameters when assessing the quality of a sperm sample. For instance:

  • Number of living sperm cells (density)
  • The mobility of the sperm cells (motility)
  • The appearance of the cells (morphology)
  • The amount of semen in the sample (volume)
Male fertility

Normal vs good sperm quality

The quality of a man's semen varies from individual to individual. It even varies from day to day which is quite normal. Still, it is important to be aware of the causes of temporary as well as permanently reduced sperm quality.

There is no general definition of what constitutes 'good' sperm quality. But the World Health Organisation has defined a standard for normal sperm quality:

  • Sperm volume: At least 1.5 millilitres
  • Total number of sperm cells: 39 million
  • Sperm concentration (also known as sperm density): 15 million per millilitre
  • Progressive motility: 32%. Progressive motility is a term for the number of living sperm cells that are moving forward.

Source: WHO

Good advice

Improving your sperm quality

Many men are able to improve their fertility with a few simple measures. Note that these are general pieces of advice to be combined with a healthy lifestyle: 

  • Exercise regularly
  • Don't smoke
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night
  • Cut back on your alcohol consumption
  • Avoid drugs and anabolic steroids
  • Don't have unprotected sex (STIs like chlamydia could harm your fertility)
  • Get tested regularly for STIs 
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Sperm quality

Three out of four men have low sperm quality

According to an extensive research study from Denmark, the sperm quality of young Danish men is so poor that 15 percent will struggle to make their partner pregnant without help from fertility treatment. 25 percent will have to wait a considerable amount of time before their partner becomes pregnant.

The Danish research project is the world's biggest study of sperm quality. It concludes that three in four Danish men have reduced sperm quality. 

»This is the world's largest study of sperm quality, the message is clear: the situation is dire,« says chief physician Niels Jørgensen, first author of the scientific paper about sperm quality published in medical journal British Medical Journal Open.

"There is reason to be concerned about the future fertility of young Danish men", he concludes with his colleagues in the scientific article.

The main topic of concern is the 15 percent of young men who have less than 15 million sperm cells per millilitre. At the same time, however, the researchers note that 35 percent of the sperm samples contained less than 5 percent normally shaped sperm cells. In fact, the average amount of normal sperm cells for all samples was as low as 6.5 percent.

The researchers conclude that there is no reason to believe that the poor sperm quality documented by the study is due to the fact that the male participants were not yet fully developed. The hospital conducting the study has monitored 150 young men for several years, and their sperm quality did not improve over time.

Male fertility

Donor sperm

Donor sperm is processed in a laboratory where they are cleaned and frozen to -196 degrees. Not all sperm cells survive freezing, and for that reason, sperm donors must have an above-average sperm quality. At European Sperm Bank, we only accept donors with high sperm quality. When we get a semen sample, we look at the quality after purification, freezing to -196 degrees and thawing.

We only accept donor candidates who can deliver a semen sample that contains 20 million living (motile) sperm cells per millilitre after thawing. Are you one of those people?