Low Sperm Motility

What is low sperm motility?

Male Factor Infertility Patient Testimonial for Dylan Stein

Male Factor Infertility patient testimonial for Dylan Stein


Low sperm motility, or asthenospermia, is part of Male Factor infertility. Asthenospermia is a men’s health condition in which fewer that 20-40% of sperm are moving effectively. In a normal sample of sperm greater than 40% motility will be present and the mean sperm speed will be 20 μm/second. When your doctor analyzes your sperm sample, the sperm are graded on a 4 point scale set by the World Health Organization (WHO), A to D, based on how much and how effective the movements are. Some doctors use different scales, so the report you see from your semen analysis may be different from the WHO standard. Some of the men I speak to say, “Well, if I have 20 million sperm in each ejaculation, and I only need 20% to be good swimmers, that’s good. That leaves me with 4 million sperm to do the job.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t take into account all of the other sperm abnormalities. So it is important to make sure your sperm are functioning on all cylinders, so to speak.

Are there symptoms of low sperm motility?

The only obvious symptom of low sperm motility is trouble getting pregnant despite proper timing of intercourse and there not being any evidence of female infertility. This generally indicates a problem with a man’s sperm, and is called Male Factor infertility. That aside, there aren’t any symptoms of low sperm motility you can see with the naked eye. Your doctor will have to analyze a semen sample for microscopic analysis to see the “symptoms.”

What causes low sperm motility?

Some of the causes of low sperm motility are:

  • Stress, anxiety and worry
  • Hyperthermia (i.e., overheating of your testicles)
  • Endocrine (hormone) imbalance
  • Urological problems
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, recreational drug use
  • Certain medications
  • Genetic factors (e.g., cystic fibrosis, Klinefelter syndrome, Kartagener syndrome)

How does a doctor diagnose low sperm motility?

In order to determine Male Factor fertility issues, your doctor will examine your semen. Semen analysis evaluates your sperm and the other parts of your ejaculate for volume, pH (acidity/alkalinity), liquefaction time, sperm count, sperm morphology, sperm motility, fructose level and the presence of immune cells.

video of semen analysis

What a doctor sees under the microscope when examining a semen sample

In preparation for your semen analysis, you will be asked to avoid ejaculating for 2 to 5 days. This will yield the most accurate test results. It is best not to go more than a week or two without ejaculating before your test because long periods without ejaculating can also lead to subpar sperm.

Does an acupuncturist diagnose low sperm motility differently?

Since acupuncturists don’t perform semen analyses, we don’t diagnose men with low sperm motility. My patients often bring semen analysis reports with them to their appointment. It’s always better to have an understanding of the whole picture when treating Male Factor infertility, especially when we have herbs that specifically can increase motility. In Chinese medicine, issues with fertility arise from disharmonies in the body. Acupuncture and herbal medicine help correct those imbalances, and thereby correct the health issues to restore wellness. So, what we do do is evaluate a person’s health from a Chinese medicine theory perspective to treat the patient’s issues in general. Essentially, it doesn’t matter if there’s low sperm motility or poor morphology – we treat the patient as they are, treat exactly what we see before us, and the fertility issues will be resolved.

How will a doctor treat low sperm motility?

Western medical treatments for low sperm motility are pretty limited. Some doctors will recommend trying to improve the diet and perhaps suggest taking some vitamins. A cup of coffee might even be recommended, but some say that’s an urban legend. Most doctors will suggest either intrauterine insemination (IUI) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). An IUI involves the injection of sperm directly into the uterus rather than letting the sperm swim through the vagina into the uterus. ICSI is a procedure by which the a sperm is chosen in the laboratory and is injected directly into the ovum. The fertilized egg is then transferred to the uterus. Most fertility doctors today are encouraging their patients to be treated with acupuncture to support Western fertility treatments.

Does acupuncture treat low sperm motility?

Research has shown that acupuncture improves sperm motility. Chinese herbal medicine also has herbs that have been show to specifically increase motility. In my experience, treating the whole person often will resolve fertility issues without the need of specific treatment for the sperm. In acupuncture theory, there is something called a pattern of disharmony. This is a way to explain all a patient’s symptoms in a tidy package. Since most symptoms, even when they seem varied and unrelated, often are related from the perspective of acupuncture theory. So, once I have determined the pattern diagnosis, I use that information to inform the acupuncture and herbal medicine treatments. By treating according to the pattern, fertility will improve. In addition to acupuncture and herbal medicine, I use dietary therapy and teach patients self-massage to do alone or with a partner. These self-massage exercises are beneficial to one’s health and also build intimacy with your sexual partner. To make an appointment at Dylan Stein Acupuncture, please go to the Appointments page. If you have further questions, feel free to ask us through the Contact page.