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Even when sperm counts are normal, low sperm motility can be a major obstacle in trying to get pregnant. Fortunately, there are things both partners can do to improve sperm motility and to minimize the impact of low sperm motility in getting pregnant. Doctors specializing in reproductive medicine usually do not pay a lot of attention to sperm motility, especially if artificial methods such as in vitro fertilization are planned for the pregnancy. If the method of impregnation is sexual intercourse, however, sperm motility is an important consideration.

A laboratory technician rates the motility of sperm on a scale of zero to four. A sperm that is just "sitting there" on the slide is rated 0. A sperm swimming in circles will be rated 1. A sperm that moves across the slide, but not in a straight line, will be rated 2. A sperm that moves across the slide in a straight line will be rated 3. And a sperm that moves across the slide in a straight line with powerful speed will be rated 4. Even in healthy men, the largest number of sperm will be rated 0. Only about 64-65 per cent of sperm show any motion at all. Even if about 35 per cent of sperm are motile, however, pregnancy is still usually possible.

There are essentially no medical treatments for this condition, but there is a nutritional supplement found in doctor-supervised clinical trials to help. This supplement is L-carnitine. In a clinical trial in the Netherlands, men with this condition, called asthenospermia, took 3,000 mg of L-carnitine a day for three months. At the end of the three months, the volunteers gave another sperm sample. The average number of swimming sperm was just 37 per cent, up from an average of 26 per cent. This increase, however, was enough to enable most of the men in the study to become fathers. When sperm motility is an issue, there is also something the female partner can do. Thick cervical mucus impedes the progress of sperm to the uterus.

Thin, "springy" cervical mucus assists it. Many women notice a change of cervical mucus into the healthier clear, white, stretchable form after taking 1,000 to 2,000 mg of evening primrose oil (EPO) for about a month. It's important however, only to take this supplement during the first half of the menstrual period. In theory, EPO can induce uterine contractions which, in theory, could interfere with the implantation of the fertilized egg. EPO should also be avoided by women who have seizure disorders.

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