Checking Your Plumbing: Diagnosis and Treatment of Low Sperm Count
What does “low sperm count” mean?
When a couple has been unable to get pregnant for a year, that’s the medical definition of infertility. It’s an issue that affects about one in every six couples. While you might automatically think infertility has something to do with your partner’s “plumbing,” you might want to have your own checked. In about 30% of cases, infertility is at least partly the result of a male condition. This is called male infertility, and it can be related to oligospermia, which is the medical term for low sperm count. This is what it’s called when your sperm count is less than 15 million sperm per milliliter of sperm. If your sperm count is low, your chances of getting your partner pregnant are reduced, but as discussed in this article, there is treatment of low sperm count.
There are a few others factors that can affect your fertility. One is the total amount of semen in your ejaculation: If your semen volume is low, your sperm count may also be below normal. Then there’s motility, which is the percent of your sperm that moves forward in a way that’s necessary for pregnancy to happen. Finally, there’s morphology, which is essentially the percent of your sperm that look normal. All of these factors are considered when evaluating a man’s fertility.
What causes a low sperm count?
If you and your partner are trying to get pregnant and you think you might have a low sperm count, it’s a good idea to see a doctor for a male fertility evaluation. If it turns out that your sperm count is low, you may get a medical exam, have some laboratory tests done, and answer questions about any past or current conditions that may have affected your testicles. These factors can include:
- Past operations in the groin area
- Groin-area injuries, infections, diseases or abnormalities such as varicoceles (dilated veins in the scrotum)
- Fatigue or stress
- Hormone imbalance
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Exposure to radiation or toxic substances
- Use of certain medicines, drugs or supplements
- Poor dietary choices
- A lack of exercise
- Obesity, extended sitting, tight underwear or other conditions or activities that can heat up the genital area
Treatment of Low Sperm Count
Oligospermia treatment options vary depending on what’s causing the condition. For example, varicoceles are generally treated with surgery, while antibiotics can clear up infections. Hormone imbalances may be treated with medication or hormone replacement.
If your sperm production is low, certain medications can help increase sperm production. You might also boost your sperm levels by staying away from hot tubs and by switching from tighty-whities to boxer shorts.
If these approaches don’t work, your doctor might suggest artificial insemination, which is when sperm is collected through multiple ejaculations and then manually placed in your partner’s uterus or fallopian tubes. Another approach, called in vitro fertilization, is when the sperm and egg are fertilized in a laboratory, and then the fertilized egg is placed in the female’s uterus.
While male infertility can be stressful, just remember: There are lots of ways it can be treated. The first step is to get checked out by your general physician or by your urologist.