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Are sperm count & sperm motility the same thing?

Written by:, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.

When it comes to trying to conceive, the reproductive health of both male and female are important. In addition to a healthy egg, there need to be strong swimmers (sperm) to go and find (and fertilize!) that egg.

So, while a lot of focus is put on the reproductive health of the woman, it’s important to consider the health of the male reproductive system, as well. 

Although it takes only one sperm to fertilize an egg, the likelihood of this event increases when the number and quality of sperm is significantly higher. A semen analysis is the most common way this is evaluated, and the results can give a good idea of the possible success of fertilization. 

Semen analyses have the ability to measure sperm volume, concentration, count, morphology, vitality, and more. A deficiency in sperm count or motility specifically, though, is responsible for 40-50% of infertility and affects nearly 7% of the male population. Because these factors are so prevalent, they are worth exploring to see if they could make a difference in your own attempts to conceive! 

What is sperm count? 

The sperm count refers to the total number of sperm found in one instance of ejaculation. Ejaculation is when the male reproductive organ releases semen, a thick fluid containing sperm during sexual climax. 

Not surprisingly, the sperm count can make a huge difference in the possibility of pregnancy. In fact, it’s possible that 90% of male infertility cases are due to sperm count

The journey from the male body to the female egg for fertilization is a long and difficult road for sperm; most are filtered out or die before they can make it. Of the possible 100 million swimmers that first enter the race, only 10,000 make it through the cervix and uterus, 1,000 on to the fallopian tubes, and only 200 to the egg itself. The better the count and quality of those swimmers, the better your chance at success!

What is sperm motility? 

Sperm are mobile cells, meaning that it’s part of their make up to be able to travel. Without this motility (or ability to move), fertilization is impossible for both natural and assisted conception. 

Sperm become mobile as they reach full maturity inside the male body. This new development is absolutely critical for fertilization once in the female body. They have to travel all the way into the fallopian tubes, which requires progressive, forward motion in the right direction. There are many factors that can make this type of motion difficult. 

Normal Sperm Count: Understanding Semen Analysis 

Although it’s possible to have a sperm sample of 100 million, the WHO considers results a lot lower than that to still be normal or healthy. The count is also simply one measurement of significance. According to the WHO, the following results are considered healthy and normal: 

  • Volume: 1.5 mL
  • Sperm concentration: 15 million spermatozoa/mL
  • Total sperm number: 39 million spermatozoa per ejaculate
  • Morphology: 4% normal forms 
  • Vitality: 58% live 
  • Progressive motility: 32% 
  • Total (progressive + nonprogressive motility): 40

In order to get the most accurate result from the semen analysis, it’s recommended that the man giving the semen sample abstain from ejaculation for 2-7 days in order to ensure the sperm count is at its highest. When the sample is given, it needs to be tested within 60 minutes, which is why a sample is often taken at the clinic.

However, you can provide a sample from home, as long as you have it to the clinic within that same time frame. Talk with your local testing clinic to get details about their procedures. 

If test results come back lower than anticipated, the clinic may request a second test within another few weeks. Sperm quality can vary from day to day, and this will give you a more accurate look at the overall results. 

What is normal sperm motility? 

According to the University of Utah, a total motile sperm count of 20 million sperm is considered normal, or at least 40% (or more) of the sperm being motile. 

How Male Fertility is Impacted by Sperm Count and Sperm Motility

Sperm count and motility account for 40-50% of male infertility. It can make a real difference for a couple trying to conceive! 

When it comes to abnormal sperm counts, it’s possible to simply have a low sperm count (oligozoospermia) or the total absence of sperm (known as azoospermia). A low sperm count is anything under 15 million sperm per mL. 

There can be more possible abnormal results when it comes to sperm motility, since the amount of motile sperm and the direction of those motile sperm all make an impact. We hope to see semen analysis results of at least 50% high grade progressively motile sperm, although results as low as 32% may be considered healthy. Without this, there are greater chances of difficulty in (or even failure for) fertilization. 

Why At-Home Male Fertility Testing is Important

With these male factor fertility accounting for up to 33% of all infertility, and sperm count and motility issues accounting for roughly 7% of that infertility, it’s important to consider whether male factor infertility could affect your chances at pregnancy. 

At Proov, we know that the first step may be best taken at home, which is why we provide an at-home sperm test kit. Unlike other sperm tests that only measure sperm count, the Proov Sperm Test measures both sperm motility and sperm count, to ensure his swimmers can get where they need to go! Each test kit also includes two tests, so that you can take the tests a week or two apart for the most accurate results, just like the testing clinics. 

Have questions? Email us!