Over the years the number of couples facing infertility issues has increased considerably. Male infertility contributes to approximately 30-40% of infertility cases. Low sperm count could be one of the causes of male infertility. What could be the reason that is triggering this decline in sperms? What can be done to counter it?
When trying to achieve a healthy pregnancy, maintaining healthy sperms levels is important. If you and your partner are facing issues with male factor infertility you should know about low sperm count and what might contribute to its onset.
What is a low sperm count?
If you have a sperm count that ranges between 15 million sperms to 250 million sperms per millilitre (mL) of your semen sample you have a normal sperm count. If you have anything less than 15 million sperm per millilitre (mL) you have a low sperm count. Low sperm count is referred to as oligospermia. You can determine your sperm count through semen analysis.
There are several factors that could cause a drop in your sperm count. They could be environmental, medical issues/history or certain lifestyle changes and age.
Certain medical issues may cause problems in your sperm production/function or even block the passage of your sperms out of the body.
- Infections such as epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis a duct behind your testes), orchitis (inflammation of your testicles) or any sexually transmitted diseases; cancer or tumours that might affect your reproductive glands; injury to your testicles or any part of your reproductive system; or any hormonal imbalances.
- If you have anti-sperm antibodies: as the name says, they fight sperm. This happens when the cells in your immune system mistakenly target your sperms as invaders and damage or kill them.
- Few anatomical problems can interfere with your sperm production and lead to a decrease in your sperm count.
- If you have any chromosomal defects that can cause abnormal development of your reproductive organs.
- DNA fragmentation: If the DNA within your sperm is abnormal you may have an increased chance of failed conception.
- Any surgeries that could block the path of your sperms such as scrotal or testicular surgeries, prostate surgeries, etc.
- Certain medications like cancer drugs, antifungal or ulcer drugs might impair your sperm production causing a decline in their number.
- Alcohol consumption can lower your testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction and even decrease your sperm count
- Illicit drug use and smoking can impact your fertility rate.
- Obesity might directly impact your sperms or cause hormonal changes that can affect your fertility and decrease sperm count.
- Being stressed for a long period of time can negatively affect the concentration of your sperms.
- If you are exposed to extremely high temperatures in your day to day life it can lead to an increased testicular temperature that may affect the quality and quantity of your sperms.
- Radiation and other toxic substances found in war environments may negatively affect your sperm quality.
- Undergoing any cancer treatment: Exposure to radiation during radiotherapy can also be one of the risk factors. Higher doses or longer treatments are more likely to impair sperm production.
- Exposure to pesticides or any other chemicals: If you are exposed to chemicals regularly you are more likely to face infertility issues. Pesticide exposure could affect your sperm concentration, output and motility.
- As you get older fewer sperm cells are produced. Decreased motility, morphology and seminal volume is seen with age. Unlike your partner who reaches her menopause and runs out of eggs, you will experience a fertility decline but won’t become infertile.
To protect your fertility you should avoid the known factors that may affect your sperm count and quality like:
- Alcohol intake
- Exposure to pesticides, heavy metal, and other toxins.
Consuming a balanced diet and exercising regularly can have a positive impact on your sperm count and motility.
If you have a low sperm count and are trying to conceive you can opt for fertility options like In vitro fertilization (IVF) or Intrauterine insemination (IUI). You can even preserve your fertility by freezing your sperms. If you are at risk of any injury or are about to undergo a medical treatment such as chemotherapy that could affect your fertility preserving your fertility could be beneficial.
Don’t consider a low sperm count a roadblock in your life, instead working on the problems will help you plan your better future. Eat healthy, don’t stress and hope for the best.