Low sperm count, which is medically known as oligospermia, accounts for about half of the cases of male infertility. When the number of sperm in the semen ejaculated falls below the normal values, it can make the chances of getting pregnant pretty low for the couple. A condition can also occur in which sperm is completely absent in the semen. This is known as azoospermia, and it makes getting pregnant naturally impossible for the couple.
Sperm are produced by the testicles continually and mature after about 40 to 72 days. They are then transported to the prostate gland and seminal vesicles where they mix with semen and are discharged out of the penis during ejaculation. The semen is different from sperm. Semen is the fluid that transports the sperm safely through the female genital tract to fertilize an egg. Studies say that only about 5% of semen is occupied by sperm.
Some men with low sperm count have been able to successfully get their partners pregnant due to the fact that a single ejaculation contains millions of sperm and it takes only one sperm to achieve pregnancy. On the other hand, there are men with normal sperm count who have been unable to get their partners pregnant. This is because apart from the number of sperm, the shape (morphology) and movement (motility) of the sperm also play a role in fertilization. A few normal shaped mobile sperm have higher success rate for fertilization than numerous abnormal shaped immobile sperm.
The normal sperm count value is between 15 million to 200 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Low sperm count is when the number of sperm in a milliliter of semen is less than 15 million. Sperm count and other sperm parameters can be measured in the laboratory through a test called semen analysis.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT LOW SPERM COUNT
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about low sperm count. Hopefully, they can answer some of the questions you might also be having about low sperm count.
1. How do I know if I have low sperm count?
Low sperm count on its own does not come with any symptoms. One of the major suspicion for low sperm count however, is the inability to impregnate your partner after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse (of course there are other factors from the woman that can be the reason). But in a situation where an underlying condition is responsible for low sperm count, symptoms like painful or difficult erection, hairlessness throughout the body or scrotal swelling can be noticed.
The only way to know for sure if you have low sperm count is through the laboratory analysis of your semen. You will be given a special container to collect your semen after masturbating, or you can also be given a special condom to wear that will collect the semen during sexual intercourse. The semen will then be analyzed in the lab and the number of sperm can be counted under a microscope or by a special computer. Semen analysis however, needs to be repeated a number of times over a period of time to be certain of the diagnosis for low sperm count.
2. What causes low sperm count ?
Often times, the cause of low sperm count is not known. In rare cases, an obvious underlying condition like chromosome problems, varicocele or undescended testes can be the reason for low sperm count.
There are also several other possible causes and risk factors that have been linked to low sperm count in males. Your doctor should be able to narrow down the possible cause through different diagnostic investigations.
3. Can low sperm count be treated?
Infertility specialists have several treatment options for low sperm count and identifying the cause of the low sperm count is crucial to its management. It is important to mention here too that there are certain cases where low sperm count is impossible to treat.
In such situations or if other treatment options fail to improve the low sperm count, you will be adviced to consider opting for Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART) or adoption. This is a decision you and your partner will be allowed to make with your full understanding.
4. Can I still impregnate my partner with low sperm count?
A man with low sperm count may still be able to get his partner pregnant. As earlier mentioned, it takes just one sperm out of the millions in the semen to fertilize an egg. If other parameters of the sperm such as morphology and motility are okay, there is still a chance for a man with low sperm count to father a child.
There are infertility experts that have shared the stories of some of their known patients with low sperm count who eventually got their partners pregnant. Some experts have stated that some men with low sperm count of even 2 million to 5 million per milliliter of semen have been able to father a child.
An important factor your specialist will raise for you to be able to achieve pregnancy with your partner is frequent sexual intercourse which is well timed. You will need to have frequent sexual intercourse with your partner at the time when she is most likely to conceive. Women are more likely to get pregnant during ovulation, which is at the middle of their menstrual cycle. Your health specialist can help you out with the calculations and you too might just be able to hit the jackpot.
5. Is it possible to increase my sperm count?
Sperm production is controlled by several factors in the body. Hormones (especially testosterone) play a major role in sperm production by the testicles. There are studies that have suggested certain tips in improving sperm count.
As long as all other organs like the testicles, sperm tubes, hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which play vital roles in sperm production and transportation, one might be able to slightly increase sperm count and prevent low sperm count with certain healthy lifestyle changes.
Research has however shown that a slight reduction in sperm count due to decrease in testosterone levels is one of those changes that happen as a man advances in age. This is a natural phenomenon but does not make the man infertile.