A low sperm count is a common and treatable cause of male infertility
At Midwest Fertility Specialists (MFS), our team believes it’s important to consider female and male infertility before making a treatment plan. As such, our Indiana fertility doctors will order a semen analysis to determine whether you have a low sperm count. Your sperm count, or sperm concentration, can provide valuable information about your ability to father a child.
What is a low sperm count and how does it affect fertility?
If the semen you ejaculate contains fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter (mL) of semen or 39 million per ejaculation, your sperm count is considered to be low. If no sperm are present, our Indiana fertility doctors will make a diagnosis of azoospermia.
When your sperm count is low, it decreases the chance of your sperm fertilizing your partner’s egg. As a result, pregnancy is less likely to occur. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to father a child. In fact, many men with a low sperm count end up having a healthy baby, often with help from fertility treatments.
What causes low sperm concentration?
Men must have a normally functioning hypothalamus, pituitary gland and testicles (testes). The hypothalamus and pituitary gland produce hormones that tell the testicles to produce sperm. Small tubes then transport the sperm from the testicles so that they mix with semen before being ejaculated out of the penis. Problems in any of these areas can result in male infertility.
The most common low sperm count causes include medical, environmental and lifestyle issues.
- Medical and health issues. While ejaculation problems and blockages can prevent the sperm from being ejaculated, hormonal imbalances can affect normal sperm production. Other issues include varicoceles (varicose veins in the scrotum), infections, undescended testicles, chromosomal defects, certain medications, and past surgeries and injuries.
- Environmental causes. Some of the most common examples are exposure to industrial chemicals, heavy metals, radiation and excessive heat near the testicles.
- Lifestyle factors. Tobacco, illicit drug and excessive alcohol use can lower the quantity and quality of your sperm. Additionally, being overweight or having uncontrolled stress can negatively affect your sperm.
Sometimes, testing may suggest you have a low sperm concentration. However, this could be due to issues with testing. As a result, our fertility doctors often look at the results of more than one semen analysis. Our team also recommends following all semen analysis recommendations for the best results.
Diagnosing and treating male infertility
If you and your partner are having trouble conceiving, our Indiana fertility doctors will run a full diagnostic workup. For men, this includes taking a medical history and ordering a semen analysis. The semen analysis requires you to provide a semen sample through masturbation. Our andrologists will then examine it under a microscope to determine the following information.
- Sperm count
- Semen volume
- Sperm shape (morphology)
- Sperm movement (motility)
There is no need to panic if you have a low sperm concentration. Our fertility doctors offer many highly effective treatments.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) involves fertilizing your partner’s eggs in the IVF laboratory using your sperm. Your doctor will then transfer one of the resulting embryos to your partner’s uterus.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) adds another step to IVF. Instead of allowing the sperm and egg to meet in a petri dish, an embryologist directly injects a single healthy sperm into each egg.
- Sperm donation is an option if your sperm count is extremely low. This involves finding a healthy donor to provide sperm for intrauterine insemination (IUI) or IVF.
Other treatments may include surgery with a urologist, medications for infections or hormonal issues, and treatments for sexual issues like erectile dysfunction.
Get help for a low sperm count today
If you’ve been trying to conceive for a year, or six months if the female partner is over 35, it’s time to get an infertility evaluation. Contact us to schedule an appointment and start on the path to parenthood.