Low sperm count
Low sperm count
Low sperm count means that the fluid (semen) you ejaculate during an orgasm contains fewer sperm than normal. A low sperm count is also called oligospermia (ol-ih-go-SPUR-me-uh). A complete absence of sperm is called azoospermia. Your sperm count is considered lower than normal if you have fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen.
Having a low sperm count decreases the odds that one of your sperm will fertilize your partner's egg, resulting in pregnancy. Nonetheless, many men who have a low sperm count are still able to father a child.
The main sign of low sperm count is the inability to conceive a child. There may be no other obvious signs or symptoms. In some cases, an underlying problem such as an inherited hormonal imbalance or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm may cause signs and symptoms. Low sperm count symptoms may include:
When to see a doctor
The production of sperm is a complex process and requires normal functioning of the testicles (testes) as well as the hypothalamus and pituitary glands — organs in your brain that produce hormones that trigger sperm production. Once sperm are produced in the testicles, delicate tubes transport them until they mix with semen and are ejaculated out of the penis. Problems with any of these systems can affect sperm production. Also, there are problems of abnormal sperm shape (morphology) or movement (motility). Often the cause of low sperm count isn't ever identified.
Health, lifestyle and other causes
A number of risk factors are linked to low sperm count and other problems that can cause low sperm count. They include:
Infertility caused by low sperm count can be stressful for both you and your partner. Complications can include:
Preparing for your appointment
You should start with your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, he or she may well refer you to an infertility specialist.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
When you see a doctor because you're having trouble getting your partner pregnant, he or she will try to determine the underlying cause. Even if your doctor thinks low sperm count is the problem, you and your partner may both need tests to rule out other causes of infertility and to look for any underlying health problems. Testing and diagnosis may involve the following:
General physical examination and medical history
To collect a semen sample, your doctor will have you masturbate and ejaculate into a special container. It's also possible to collect sperm for examination during intercourse, using a special condom. Sperm counts often fluctuate. In most cases, several semen analysis tests are done over a period of time to ensure accurate results.
New sperm are produced continually in the testicles and take about 40 to 76 days to mature. So, a current semen analysis reflects your environment over the past 2.5 months. Any positive changes you've made won't show up for a period of several months.
One of the most common causes of low sperm count is incomplete or improper collection of a sperm sample. Most doctors will check two or more semen samples over time to ensure consistency between samples. To ensure accuracy in a collection, your doctor will want to:
Semen analysis results
There are many factors involved in reproduction, and the number of sperm in your semen is only one. Some men with low sperm counts successfully father children. Likewise, some men with normal sperm counts are unable to father children. Even if you have enough sperm, you're much more likely to get your partner pregnant if at least half of your sperm have a normal shape (morphology) and show normal forward movement (motility).
Treatments and drugs
Treatments for low sperm count include:
When treatment doesn't work
Lifestyle and home remedies
There are a few steps you can take at home to increase your chances of getting your partner pregnant:
Evidence is still limited on whether — or how much — herbs or supplements might help increase sperm count or overall sperm health.
Although there is no conclusive information on the benefit of dietary supplementation, certain vitamins, minerals and amino-acids may improve sperm count or sperm quality. They include:
Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal remedies or supplements, as some can cause harm when taken in high doses (megadoses) or for extended periods of time.
You should avoid some known factors that can affect sperm count and quality:
Last Updated: 2012-09-22
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