All about sperm count: causes, solutions and treatments

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Understanding sperm count and its importance

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about sperm count. Sperm concentration refers to the number of sperm per unit volume of semen, and total sperm count is the total number of sperm in the entire ejaculation. Generally speaking, the lower the sperm count, the lower the chances of conceiving. However, other factors come into play, such as sperm mobility and DNA fragmentation. Thus, sperm count alone cannot determine the situation.

If you have fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter or fewer than 39 million sperm per ejaculation, this is known as low sperm count and is a public health problem. If you have no sperm at all, this is called azoospermia.

Causes of low sperm count

Many factors can contribute to a low sperm count. Fortunately, many of them are reversible:

  • Poor diet: Certain foods are detrimental to sperm health and could be one of the causes of low counts.
  • Overweight: Research shows that overweight men are 11% more likely to have a low count than men with a healthy BMI. Similarly, obese men were 42% more likely to have a low count than their normal-weight counterparts, and 81% more likely to produce no sperm at all.
  • Bad habits: Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and taking drugs damage our overall well-being and can also affect the health of your sperm.
  • Heat damage: Sperm cells tend to die when exposed to excessive heat.
  • Medical reasons: Certain medical conditions can lead to lower sperm counts.
  • Environmental factors: Sperm counts fell by 50-60% between 1973 and 2011.

Improving sperm quantity and quality

If your poor sperm health is proven to be due to lifestyle factors, there are several things you can do to improve their condition:

  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Reduce processed or sugary foods in the diet
  • Eat more superfoods beneficial to sperm health, such as oily fish, cereals, berries and dark leafy greens
  • Achieve a healthy weight if your BMI is too high
  • Take dietary supplements containing nutrients such as zinc and selenium
  • Ensure an adequate intake of omega-3s in the diet and supplement levels with a good omega-3 supplement if necessary
  • Wear loose-fitting underwear to keep your testicles cool
  • Make sure you keep your cell phone and laptop away from your testicles to reduce heat exposure.

Treatment options for low testicular count

Even if you can’t improve your sperm count by changing your lifestyle, it’s still possible to conceive with a low count; it will just be a little more difficult. Men with low sperm counts can benefit from assisted fertility treatments such as ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), where embryologists can find and select a strong sperm and insert it directly into the egg. If your sperm count is extremely low or non-existent, it may be worth considering using donor sperm. This concept may be difficult to accept at first, but sperm donation has enabled many men to become fathers and couples to start families.

In conclusion, knowing your sperm count is crucial to understanding and solving fertility problems. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to improve sperm quantity and quality, from better lifestyle habits to medical treatments. Finally, sperm donation also represents an alternative for couples who wish to start a family despite an unfavorable situation.

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