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Everything you need to know about low sperm count

Infertility is not just a woman’s issue.

Mr Ed Coats, Medical Director The Evewell West London, explores what a low sperm count means, how it affects male fertility, and what lifestyle changes and treatment options can help overcome low sperm count.

Meet Ed

Infertility is not just a woman’s issue. It’s a shared problem faced by both men and women.

Low sperm count is one of the significant factors contributing to male infertility, yet a good number of men are oblivious to this fact or are unwilling to disclose it.

A low sperm count means there are fewer sperm available to fertilise an egg, making it difficult for a couple to conceive.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what a low sperm count means, how it affects male fertility, and explore some lifestyle changes and treatment options that can help overcome low sperm count and promote conception.

What is Low Sperm Count?

Low sperm count, also known as oligospermia, is a condition where there are fewer sperm than normal in the semen.

According to the World Health Organisation, a man should have at least 15 million sperm per millimetre of semen. Anything less than this can make conception difficult.

A man’s sperm count fluctuates over time, and more than one semen analysis is needed for an accurate diagnosis of low sperm count.

Some factors that can cause temporary low sperm count include infections, medications, and lifestyle practices such as smoking and alcoholism.

How Does Low Sperm Count Affect Male Fertility?

For conception to occur, a man’s sperm needs to be healthy, mature and mobile enough to swim to and fertilise the egg.

A low sperm count can adversely impact this process. The fewer the number of sperm, the lower the chances of fertilisation.

Another thing to note is that a low sperm count can be an indicator of an underlying health condition such as hormonal imbalance, genetic issues, or damage to the testicles.

If left untreated, such conditions can exacerbate fertility problems in men.

Lifestyle Changes for Low Sperm Count

Whilst there are no proven ways to guarantee an increase in the number of sperm or their motility, there are several measures men can take to try and optimise and/or improve semen parameters. Some of these changes here may help improve your sperm.

Several lifestyle changes can help boost sperm count and improve overall fertility.

Having a sedentary lifestyle will increase the likelihood of a raised Body Mass Index (BMI) and this itself is a risk for having lower-quality sperm. Excessive exercise, like running long distances or cycling for prolonged periods, may also harm the sperm.

Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake are two of the most effective actions to improve male fertility.

Your chances of natural conception and IVF success are halved by smoking. This is as much of a problem for men as it is for women.

Research has shown us that if you smoke as a man, you are half as likely to succeed with your IVF treatment. Equally drinking alcohol in excess may affect sperm quality and also reduce your chances of success so you should aim to drink < 5 units of alcohol each week.

Men who drink more than 2-3 caffeinated drinks a day may also find this may impact their sperm and chances of successful conception both naturally and with IVF.

Exposure to toxins harms the cells that produce sperm and can lead to low sperm production. Avoid exposure to excessive heat such as hot baths, saunas and hot tubs.

And, studies have also shown that wearing loose-fitting underwear and avoiding high-intensity exercise can all help optimise the sperm count.

Nutrition for Low Sperm Count

A few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle habits can have a profound impact on sperm count, and adequate sleep and regular exercise can also improve fertility.

You should avoid eating foods that contain trans fats, such as hydrogenated vegetable oils or margarine.

Instead, regularly eat foods containing unsaturated fats such as oily fish, nuts and olive oil which are a good source of Omega 3.

Increase your intake of antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and E, through your ‘5 a day’ and so-called ‘super foods’, including blueberries, broccoli and 100% cocoa chocolate.

Regarding nutrition, foods rich in vitamins C and D, and zinc can also help optimise sperm production. Some of these foods include pumpkin seeds, spinach, beans and legumes, and oranges.

Supplements for Low Sperm Count

If you want to consider supplements, we recommend the following to help with general sperm health, before commencing any fertility cycle.

Take supplements containing Zinc, Selenium, antioxidants, and Omega 3, such as Well Man or Proxeed Plus.

Don’t forget, some medication we are given by our doctors might be affecting the sperm count and quality.

Always check with your fertility specialist if you are taking prescribed or over-the-counter medications to ensure there is not an easily reversible cause that you can quickly identify.

Fertility Treatments for Low Sperm Count

Several treatments can help couples conceive despite low sperm count.

IVF, particularly ICSI, are the most common fertility treatment for low sperm count.

In an ICSI procedure, a single healthy sperm is injected directly into the egg using a tiny needle and then introduced into the uterus.

This method provides a higher chance for the sperm to fertilise the egg successfully and has been successful even when other treatments have failed.

How The Evewell can help you with low sperm count

We put equal weight on male and female fertility, after all, it takes both an egg and a sperm to make a baby, yet still, a lot of clinics conduct only minimal investigations on men.

Finding the root cause of male infertility is essential in treating it. Our combined focus across andrology and human genetics, allows us to look at male fertility holistically, enabling us to diagnose a multitude of male fertility issues and find the quickest and least invasive way to achieve a successful pregnancy.

We offer a range of treatments to maximise your chances of conceiving your own biological child, and our expert team will analyse your sperm and make recommendations, if necessary, for further treatment or considerations.

Most people assume that if they are having trouble conceiving that they should go straight to IVF. Although IVF is a very good and highly successful option, there are many other treatments for male infertility, which may be less invasive and less expensive. We will always consider these options first.

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