FAQ: Low Sperm Count

Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions about Low Sperm Count Most couples trying to conceive (TTC) experience a mixed range of emotions when they are not able to achieve their dream of having a baby easily. The intended parents may experience feelings of frustration, devastation, or even shame when they failed to conceive. Male infertility problems such as low sperm count is one of the reasons that reduce the chances of a successful pregnancy. It is important for you to note that this is not a rare condition and many men around the world face similar problems. Let us look into the top 10 most commonly asked questions by many men out there when they find out that they are having problems with their sperm counts and general sperm health. What is low sperm count, and how to know if I am having this problem? World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the average number of sperms should be around 15 million per milliliter (ml), or at least 39 million per ejaculate. If the semen analysis results show that you have 15 million sperm per milliliter, you have a normal, healthy sperm count. Anything below the average indicates that the sperm count is low. This problem is also known as Oligospermia.  Generally, when your partner has trouble getting pregnant, the fertility doctor will recommend you and your partner to get infertility testing. The male infertility tests include semen analysis to check your overall sperm health, especially the sperm count. Doctors often conduct two or three separate sperm analyses to get a good idea of your sperm’s health. Follow the instructions given by the doctor to get the best semen sample for analysis. The semen sample obtained will then be analysed in the laboratory. If you have fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen, your sperm count is considered to be lower than the average sperm count (low sperm count).  Your fertility doctor will then suggest appropriate interventions to treat your condition. Are there any obvious signs or symptoms that indicate decrease in sperm count? There aren’t any definite signs or symptoms to indicate problems with sperm count. However, there are some problems that are commonly associated with male fertility that may cause issues with sperm count. Thus, you are encouraged to get a consultation from doctor if you observed the following signs: –  A problem with maintaining an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse (erectile dysfunction). – Pain, discomfort, or swelling in the testicle area – History of prostate or sexual problems or male reproductive surgery. I was told that I have infections in the tubes that carry sperm. Does it affect my sperm count? Some infections may interfere with sperm production. Inflammation of testicles or sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as HIV or Gonorrhea may cause a decrease in sperm count. Thus, it is advised to consult the doctor and do a semen analysis to check your sperm health if you are diagnosed with infections. There are many treatments available to treat the condition before it becomes worse and lowers your chances of having a baby later in life. Shall I do semen analysis if my brothers are diagnosed with Oligospermia? Is this condition inherited from our father? There are chances that genetics could cause problems in sperm counts. Men can carry genetic disorders such as missing Y chromosome or the presence of extra chromosomes that may lead to a reduced sperm count. These disorders can be hereditary and thus it is best to inform your family history to your doctor or fertility specialist during the consultation. Can exposure to excessive heat affect sperm count? Excessive heat around the genitals does have effects on sperm count. If you frequently use saunas and hot tubs or place your laptop on your lap while working, it can lower sperm quality and potentially reduce sperm count. It is because testicles work well when the body temperature is slightly below your body temperature. When there is too much heat around the area, it can negatively affect your sperm quality. The good news is that the effect is reversible and does not cause a permanent impact on the reduction in sperm count. Provided there are no other fertility problems that affect sperm health, the sperm quality should return to normal if the exposure to excessive heat is reduced for a few months.  Can obesity or being overweight affect the sperm count? Obesity or overweight men may have diminished quantity and quality of sperm. Studies suggested that weight gain may affect male fertility and lowers the chances of fatherhood. Overweight men are 11% more likely to produce low sperm count than their normal-weight peers. Meanwhile obese men are 42% more likely to have fewer sperm counts. Your overall health including weight is one of the important factors in conceiving healthy baby. Thus, if you plan to have a baby, it is advised to seek help, reduce weight and get in the best shape as possible.   I don’t smoke but I vape and drink alcohol occasionally. Can it still affect my sperm count? Yes, vaping can still affect sperm count. You may assume vaping is a safer option, but they all share a similar type of effect. Be it smoke or vape, it contains nicotine which can significantly lower your sperm count, motility, and overall quality. Sperms are highly sensitive to oxidative stress. Smoking or vaping can lead to the body experiencing oxidative stress that can eventually cause damage to sperm quality. On the other hand, the effects of alcohol consumption on sperm count are subject to the amount of alcohol consumed. Not everyone will be affected by the same amount of alcohol in the same way. However, consistent heavy drinking or binge drinking can negatively impact your sperm health. It may lower your testosterone level and causes poor sperm health. Hence, if you are intending to build a family, it is best to stop smoking or vaping, reduce alcohol consumption and practice a