Problems with sperm, including a low sperm count and problems with sperm quality, are quite common. They’re a factor in around one in three couples who are struggling to get pregnant.
Getting your sperm count checked
See your Doctor/GP/PCP for proper diagnosis and if you have not managed to conceive after one year of trying for a baby.
It’s a good idea for both you and your partner to get advice, as fertility problems can affect men and women and often it’s a combination of both. It’s important to understand what the exact issue is before you decide on your next steps.
One of the tests your GP can arrange is a semen analysis.
This is where a sample of your semen is analyzed in a laboratory to check the quality and quantity of the sperm. The results are usually available within a week.
If the results are abnormal, the test should be repeated to ensure it was accurate. This will normally be performed after three months.
Your GP can refer you to a specialist in male infertility at your local hospital or fertility clinic if any problems are found.
Causes of a low sperm count
In many cases, it’s not obvious what causes a low sperm count.
Sometimes problems with sperm count and quality are associated with:
- a hormone imbalance, such as hypogonadism (reduced hormone production)
- a genetic problem such as Klinefelter syndrome
- having had undescended testicles as a baby
- a structural problem – for example, the tubes that carry sperm being damaged and blocked by illness or injury, or being absent from birth
- a genital infection such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or prostatitis(infection of the prostate gland)
- varicoceles (enlarged veins in the testicles)
- previous surgery to the testicles or hernia repairs
- the testicles becoming overheated
- excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and using drugs such as marijuana or cocaine
- certain medications, including testosterone replacement therapy, long-term anabolic steroid use, cancer medications (chemotherapy), some antibiotics and some antidepressants
If you or your partner has been diagnosed with a low sperm count, there are several options available.
Your doctor may initially suggest trying to conceive naturally for a little longer. Many couples conceive within the second year of trying.
You can help maximize your chances of conceiving by: