Ultimate Guide to Low Sperm Count & Fertility

Men who suspect infertility can benefit from existing and new sperm count tests on the market. We like to keep you up to date on your test options as well as keep you informed on the developments when it comes to the sensitive matter of infertility.

Our Guide to Male Infertility

Infertility is, without a doubt, a very touchy subject for couples who have had difficulty conceiving. However, it’s important to understand that there are multiple reasons why these couples may have trouble, one of which is a male’s low sperm count.

If you have had difficulty conceiving for at least a year, it might be worth looking into fertility testing, for both the man and woman. Developing a greater understanding of the underlying issues can help you find solutions and potentially increase your odds of a successful pregnancy.

If low sperm count is indeed considered to be the main factor, all hope is not lost. Many men who have been diagnosed with low counts still go on to father children with the appropriate help.

How Common Is Male Infertility?

Male infertility is more prevalent than you might think. According to the NICHD, male reproductive issues, including low sperm counts, contribute to approximately one-third of fertility problems among couples. The other two-thirds include problems with a woman’s fertility and combined problems with the couple.

What Age Are Men’s Sperm Most Fertile?

While it’s possible for men to conceive children far longer than it is for most women, younger men tend to have more favorable odds. As you grow older, your sperm’s vitality and overall quality decrease.

Men under the age of 40, for example, have a better chance at conceiving than men over 40, though it’s possible for men to father children well into their senior years.

This is not to say that fertility problems only affect men of a certain age. It can affect men of any age and issues can date as far back as infancy.

What Are the Common Signs of Infertility in Men?

There are many signs of infertility in men, but the most common indicator is a failure to conceive. This is what drives many couples to visit the doctor in search of answers.

Another sign may include clear and watery semen, though this doesn’t always mean that there is a problem with sperm count. It could simply be the result of too many ejaculations in a short period of time. If you notice that your semen is diluted, avoid ejaculating for a few days to let your sperm regenerate.

A low sex drive or failure to maintain an erection are also signs that may point to male infertility. These are not indicative of fertility issues in and of themselves, but may be signs that you should visit the doctor.

Can a Man Run Out of Sperm?

Unlike women, men aren’t limited to a specific number of sperm, they are constantly regenerating. Though the number of sperm may decrease with each ejaculation, particularly if there are a few in a day, it always renews within hours for most men.

Others may need a few days to recover. Frequent masturbation and sexual activity can, however, affect the quality and number of sperm that are released in the ejaculate.

As a man ages, however, the quality of sperm tends to decrease, particularly past the age of 40 to 50 years old.

Does Low Sperm Count Affect Fertility?

Yes, low sperm count can drastically affect fertility. If you’re not producing an adequate number of sperm, it can make conception difficult.

There are many factors that go into getting pregnant, but having low numbers can definitely contribute to a lower rate of success in conception.

What Causes Low Sperm Count in Males?

There are several factors that can contribute to a low sperm count, whether it’s medical, environmental or related to your lifestyle. For most men, the cause isn’t often identified when they’re diagnosed, unless it’s an obvious clear issue.

There are several medical issues that contribute to infertility such as varicocele, which is an inflammation of the veins in the testicles that affects the quality of the sperm.

Infection can damage sperm quality and the ability to produce them, and it can even lead to scarring that makes it impossible for sperm to pass through.

Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, that are left untreated can also contribute to scarring. Hormone abnormality is a common medical issue that makes a big impact on the number of sperm a man produces.

Problems with the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands can lead to decreased production. Some medications such as antibiotics, steroids, and those used in chemotherapy can also lead to infertility issues.

When it comes to environmental causes, it typically involves an overexposure to certain chemicals or even excess heat which can cook the testicles and thus, the sperm. Tight clothing can also contribute to decreased production, so choose underwear and pants that are comfortable with a little give, rather than being too snug.

A man’s lifestyle can also contribute to low counts. The main factor is the abuse of drugs and alcohol, which can affect testosterone levels and decrease production. It may not happen with one occurrence or even occasional use, but repeated use can lead to detrimental effects on the reproductive system.

Stress and depression can affect the hormones, and so can obesity, making all three of these conditions something worth looking into.

What Are the Signs of Low Sperm Count?

A low sperm count is not something that you can really determine by simply looking at the ejaculate. There really aren’t that many signs to look for, but a few symptoms do include those mentioned previously for male infertility.

While clear and watery semen may be an indicator, the only real way to determine if you’re producing a decreased number is to get a test done by a fertility specialist.

How Is a Low Sperm Count Diagnosed?

In order to determine if you’re producing sperm at a normal rate, it’s necessary to have a medical examination. During the physical, the doctor will evaluate your overall health and genital area to see if there are any noticeable abnormalities such as a lump or an inflammation of the testicles.

Questions about your sexual health and history will also likely come up to help pinpoint any issues that stand out.

If low sperm count is suspected, the doctor will order what’s called a semen analysis test. You’ll be asked to provide a semen sample, which they’ll then look at under a microscope to determine the number of sperm per milliliter.

If there are under 15 million per milliliter, you’ll be diagnosed with a low sperm count. Most doctors, however, request a follow-up test within two weeks to confirm the results.

There are additional tests that doctors may do to confirm the diagnosis, but this depends on your individual situation. Ultrasounds, hormone testing and urinalysis may be used to confirm and further investigate the problem.

Ultrasounds give a picture view of inside the testicles to make sure that there is no structural damage while hormone testing is done by drawing blood. Urinalysis can help determine if your ejaculate is emptying into your bladder, instead of out through your penis.

Can a Man with Low Sperm Count Get a Woman Pregnant?

While low sperm count can make it difficult to get pregnant, it’s not the only factor that affects conception. The answer, in short, is yes, even with a low sperm count a man can still get a woman pregnant.

It may take longer than for couples with no fertility issues, but it’s not impossible. The chances of a successful pregnancy are even greater if the sperm are in good shape with no motility issues.

Some couples have to try for years in order to get successful results while others rely on medications under a doctor’s care. In some instances, couples may opt for artificial insemination to raise their odds in a given cycle, though this tends to be a last resort as the cost can be quite high.

How Much Does It Cost to Get Sperm Tested?

The cost of a sperm analysis can vary widely depending on several factors including whether you’re getting the test done in a medical clinic or using an at-home test.

If you’re having the analysis completed in a doctor’s office, the cost is likely to be higher, particularly if you don’t have insurance. Even if you do have insurance, some companies may not cover a large portion, or any, of the cost.

Be sure to check with your insurance company before you visit a specialist to make sure you’re aware of any out-of-pocket costs.

Also look for low-cost clinics that may help save money. Home tests are a bit more inexpensive, typically costing between $40 and $60 for a single test, though some may cost more or less, depending on whether you buy the brand name or a generic test.

How Long Does a Sperm Analysis Take?

The sperm analysis test itself doesn’t take long to carry out at all. If it’s done in an office, doctors can usually give the results within 30 minutes after examining the sample. This is because it takes about 20 minutes for the sample to liquify enough to place under a microscope.

However, one sample usually isn’t enough to confirm a diagnosis. Perhaps you didn’t abstain long enough or there were changes you’ve recently made to your lifestyle that aren’t reflected in your numbers.

Your physician will likely request that you come back within two weeks, and may even choose to test a few times over a period of up to three months to provide an official diagnosis.

How Can I Check My Sperm Count at Home?

There are multiple at-home tests that let you test your sperm count at your leisure. If you suspect that you may have a low count and you don’t want to visit the doctor, you can buy an over-the-counter analysis kit.

The tests will require you to ejaculate into a collection cup, much like you would at a physician’s office. You’ll then transfer the semen to the test following the included directions.

While the tests may appear different, the way they determine your count is by measuring the amount of protein that’s only present in sperm.

The time to display results varies among the tests but doesn’t usually take longer than 20 minutes. It operates much like a pregnancy test showing a positive sign if your counts are normal or a negative if your measured levels are below the specified norms.

Is a Home Sperm Test Accurate?

While the tests are usually of the same quality that you would find in an infertility specialist’s office, the answer isn’t so cut and dried. Yes, you can expect that the measured levels of sperm are accurate, however, this isn’t enough to determine if you’re fertile or not since fertility relies on other factors, too.

The main difference between a semen analysis at home and in a doctor’s office is the number of factors that get tested.

At-home tests only let you know if your numbers are within the specified limits, they don’t test for anything else. In a clinic, your specialist will look at other factors including the quality of your sperm to see if they look healthy and this means looking at their shape, motility and of course, the number of them that are alive.

Additionally, the amount of semen is important too. The more fluid you ejaculate, the better the odds of sperm traveling through a woman’s reproductive system to the fallopian tubes.

If you’re looking for a simple answer, an at-home test will definitely work and give you accurate results. But, if you’re in need of a more definitive answer, you’ll have to visit a specialist.

How Long Should You Abstain Before a Sperm Test?

Specialists recommend that you abstain for 2 to 3 days before you take a sperm analysis test, whether it’s in a physician’s office or using an at-home test.

If you don’t abstain, the concentration will be diluted which can lead to numbers being low. This is because it typically takes a few for sperm to regenerate. This may lead to a misdiagnosis, so it’s always a good idea to wait 48 to 72 hours before undergoing the analysis for a more accurate result.

You will also be asked to abstain from other factors that could affect your results, such as caffeine, supplements and tobacco.

Will Abstinence Increase Sperm Count?

Yes, abstinence will definitely help increase your sperm count, but it’s important that you don’t abstain for too long. The longer you abstain, the more detrimental the results may be.

For example, abstaining for more than a week can lead to decreased motility and quality of the sperm, which can affect the results of a test and also your odds of conceiving.

This is why specialists recommend not having sex every day when you’re trying to get pregnant. It can have the opposite effect and make conception take even longer.

How Long Does It Take For Sperm to Build Back Up After Ejaculating?

After ejaculating it can take a few days, typically 2 to 3, for sperm to build back up. This is why it’s important to abstain either before a semen analysis examination or when trying to conceive.

The more often you ejaculate, the more diluted the semen, which means fewer sperm released.

Can Low Sperm Count Be Treated?

Yes, there are multiple treatments available for low sperm count, some of which can improve a man’s virility from infertile to fertile. However, the method of treatment depends on the cause of the low sperm count, to begin with.

If the cause is a varicocele, for example, surgical correction is the recommended course of action. Infections can be treated with antibiotics, but those that were left untreated for extended periods of time may have permanent repercussions.

If your low numbers are because of a hormone abnormality, your doctor may recommend starting you on hormone therapy to see if it helps. Throughout the methods of treatment, your doctor will continue to run semen analysis tests to keep an eye on your production.

How Can I Increase My Sperm Count Naturally?

If you’re looking to avoid traditional medical treatments, there are several things you can do to increase your sperm count naturally.

First, make sure you’re getting a decent amount of sleep every night. This helps keep your stress levels down and stress is a contributor to low production.

You can take supplements and it’s very important to avoid certain prescription drugs and other illicit drugs that are known to affect fertility.

It’s important to note that lifestyle changes do take a few months to make an impact, so don’t get discouraged if you’re having difficulty conceiving even after putting these changes into effect.

How Long Does it Take to Improve Sperm?

Improving your sperm can take up to three months as the sperm maturation cycle takes approximately 64 days. So the changes you make to your life may not reflect in your fertility for this long, which is why some specialists insist on testing you over a period of several months, particularly when treatment is prescribed as a means of improving your sperm numbers and quality.

What Are The Best Supplements For Male Fertility?

There are a number of supplements that are thought to help with fertility issues in men.

Fenugreek, for example, is widely recommended for men as studies have shown it improves testosterone levels and libido.
Zinc deficiency can contribute to not only lower sperm quality but also low testosterone.
Tribulus terrestris, a medicinal herb, has been tied to helping boost a man’s libido.
Maca root has been shown in some studies to improve sperm motility and count though more research is necessary.

As with any supplement, make sure you consult with your doctor or infertility specialist before you start taking any over the counter herbs or vitamins.

How Can a Man Prevent Infertility?

There are several things that a man can do to help maintain his virility, most of them are lifestyle choices. Avoiding overconsumption of caffeine is one such choice. Instead of drinking coffee or soda all day, drink more water.

This is healthier in the long run too and can help stave off weight issues and the fertility problems that can come from obesity.

Avoid the use of drugs and drink alcohol occasionally instead of making it a regular occurrence. Additionally, avoiding high temperatures, such as those found in a hot tub or sauna, can help with fertility issues as sperm are sensitive to high temperatures.

However, it’s important to know that some men just produce a lower number of sperm naturally and unfortunately, this isn’t something that you can prevent.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a low sperm count, it’s important that you know that it is not impossible to conceive, so don’t let this deter you.

It may take a little work and help from a qualified fertility specialist, but having children is still a very real possibility. Learn all you can about your condition and take the appropriate steps as outlined by your physician.