Did you know that the average sperm density ranges from 15 to 200 million sperm per milliliter of semen? This means that if you have fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter or less than 39 million sperm total per ejaculate, you may have a low sperm count. But how would you know? It’s not exactly something you can check at home.
If you’re concerned about your sperm count, your first step should be to schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist or urologist. They will likely order a semen analysis, which is the most reliable way to measure the number, quality, and motility (movement) of your sperm. Testicular sperm count can also be measured using a testicular sperm extraction (TESE) procedure, but this is generally only done if you have a history of testicular problems or a very low sperm count.
But what is sperm count, and how much does it matter? Keep reading to learn more about sperm count and its impact on fertility.
What is a Semen Analysis?
A semen analysis is the most common way to measure sperm count. It’s a simple test that assesses the number, quality, and motility of your sperm through a semen sample.
When a man produces semen, it contains millions of sperm. But only a fraction of those sperm are strong and fast enough to reach and fertilize an egg. A semen analysis can tell you how many sperm are in your semen and whether they’re able to swim quickly and reach an egg.
This is done under a microscope, where a technician will assess the sperm’s:
Count: How many sperm are in the semen sample?
Motility: How many sperm are moving?
Progression: How fast are the sperm swimming?
Morphology: What shape are the sperm?
A semen analysis is important for men who are trying to conceive because it can give you and your doctor insight into your fertility. If you have a low sperm count or poor sperm quality, it may be more difficult to conceive.
It's important to note that your sperm count can fluctuate based on a number of factors, such as how often you ejaculate, your diet, and your overall health. So, if you’re trying to conceive, it’s a good idea to have a semen analysis often to check on your sperm count and quality.
Your doctor may ask you to provide multiple samples, as well as refrain from ejaculating for a few days or weeks beforehand. This is because your sperm count can fluctuate day to day, therefore, it’s important to get an accurate measure.
What Sperm Count Says About Your Health and Fertility
A sperm count of less than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen is considered low. A count of more than 15 million sperm per milliliter is considered normal. However, even if your sperm count is normal, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to conceive.
In addition to sperm count, sperm motility and morphology are also important for fertility. Motility is the percentage of sperm that are moving. Morphology is the percentage of sperm that are the right shape.
A healthy sperm should have:
- A count of 15 million sperm or more per milliliter
- A motility of 40 percent or more
- A morphology of 4 percent or more
If your sperm count is low, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re infertile. You may still be able to conceive with a low sperm count. However, it may take longer.
There are a number of things that can cause a low sperm count, including:
Age: As men get older, their sperm count decreases.
Health conditions: Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, and celiac disease, can affect sperm count.
Hormone imbalances: An imbalance of the hormones that control sperm production can lead to a low sperm count.
Infections: Infections of the reproductive tract, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, can cause a low sperm count.
Exposure to toxins: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as pesticides, can lower sperm count.
Cancer treatments: Certain cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, can lower sperm count.
If you’re concerned about your sperm count, talk to your doctor. They can order tests to diagnose any underlying causes. Treatment depends on the cause, but may include medication, surgery, or lifestyle changes.
How To Improve Your Sperm Count
If you have a low sperm count, there are a number of things you can do to improve your fertility.
Lose weight: If you’re overweight, losing even a few pounds can increase your sperm count. This is because of the effect that obesity has on hormone levels. Testosterone levels are lower in obese men, and this can impact sperm production.
Exercise: Getting regular exercise can also help to increase your sperm count. Exercise can help to improve your overall health, and it can also increase testosterone levels.
Reduce stress: Stress can have a negative impact on your hormone levels, and this can lead to a lower sperm count. Try to find ways to reduce stress in your life, such as yoga or meditation.
Get enough sleep: Sleep is important for overall health, and it can also impact hormone levels. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
Limit alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol can lead to a lower sperm count. If you want to conceive, it’s best to limit your alcohol intake.
Quit smoking: Smoking is bad for your health, and it can also lead to a lower sperm count. Testosterone levels are directly impacted by smoking, so quitting is essential for improving your fertility.
Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can improve your health and increase your sperm count. Avoid processed foods to ensure that you’re getting the nutrients you need.
Talk to your doctor: If you’re concerned about your sperm count, talk to your doctor. They can help to determine the cause of your low sperm count and recommend treatment options.
This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.