If a man has fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen, the condition is called oligozoospermia (low sperm count). Oligozoospermia can make it more difficult to conceive. In roughly one third of all couples who are struggling to conceive, the man has a low sperm count and/or low sperm quality.
How can I know if I have a low sperm count?
In order to find out your sperm count, you leave a semen sample to a physician to have it analysed in a laboratory. If the result shows a low sperm count, you will be asked to leave a new semen sample to ensure that the first test was accurate.
A low sperm count can be the result of many different causes. In some cases, not even a specialised fertility clinic will be able to determine with certainty exactly why a man has a low sperm count.
Here are a few examples of factors that can cause a low sperm count:
- Having undescended testicles as a child.
- Certain genetic conditions, including Klinefelter syndrome.
- A hormonal problem, such as hypgonadism.
- A structural problem, e.g. when the tubes used for sperm transport are absent from birth, or has been damaged by injury, or has been fully or partly blocked due to disease.
- Previous surgery to the testicles
- Hernia repairs
- Certain sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.
- Varicoceles (enlarged veins in the testicles)
- Excessive smoking.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol and/or recreational drugs such as cocaine or marijuana.
- Certain medications, including some antibiotics, some antidepressants, testosterone replacement therapy, chemotherapy, and long-term use of anabolic steroids.
- Overheated testicles (34.5 degees C is the ideal temperature)
What you can do – and if you can do something – to increase you sperm count after being diagnosed with oligozoospermia will depend on the underlying reason or reasons. Some conditions will require medical interventions to get the sperm count up to normal levels. There are also situations where there isn’t much to do to improve the sperm count; instead fertility treatments such as IVF and ICSI might be considered. There is also the possibility of using donated sperm.