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Are you finding it difficult to have a baby? In women, infertility is mostly related to ovulation problems while in men, infertility may be due to low sperm count as well as the low motility of the sperm.
What is healthy sperm count?
In a healthy male, 20 to 150 million sperms per ml are produced. If you tend to have less than 15 million sperms per ml, then your sperm count falls below the normal range.
Sperm related problems that can reduce fertility in men are basically of three types:
- Oligozoospermia: This is a condition where the count of sperms that are produced in men is very low.
- Azoospermia: This is a condition where no sperms are produced leading to infertility in men.
- Low sperm motility: This refers to the ability of the sperm to swim fast to fertilise the eggs in the uterus of the woman. If they are slow, the sperm fall short of reaching the uterus.
Top 11 Causes for Low Sperm Count and Motility
There are a number of reasons for low or no sperm count in men:
- Infections, deformities or injuries:
Previous illness or injury to the tube that carries the sperm is one of the reasons for infertility in men. The passage can be blocked due to varicocele (swelling of veins), there may a structural deformity due to undescended testicles at birth, a surgery or an injury that may stop the flow of sperm.
Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, urinary tract infections, inflammation of the prostate gland or testicles, etc. are some of the ways in which the passage of the sperms can get partially or fully blocked.
- Drug intake:
Use of certain drugs like chemotherapy medicines, testosterone replacement therapy, steroids, etc. may leave you susceptible to low sperm count. Recreational drugs like cocaine, marijuana, etc. also lower your sperm count to a great extent.
- Toxic exposure:
Long term exposure to toxic substances in the environment may also lead to low sperm count. Consistently breathing polluted air may cause toxin build up in your body and cause infertility issues.
When you come in regular contact with industrial chemicals like solvents, paints, pesticides or various substances in factories etc., it can affect your sperm count and sperm quality to a large extent.
Smoking and alcohol consumption are also potential reasons for lowering your sperm quality and count.
Stress of any kind – physical or emotional can take its toll on your fertility levels. Spending late hours at night at work, change in shifts at work or working for a long time in front of laptop screens, disrupt the biological rhythm of your body. Mental stress or emotional stress due to work, health or personal life can also affect your hormone secretion adversely. This may lower your sperm count. In fact, it is a catch 22 situation; if you are stressed about your infertility problem, this will further affect your sperm count and quality.
If you weigh 20% more than your ideal weight for your height, then you are obese. This can be detrimental for your fertility as too much weight causes hormonal imbalance, which in turn may lead to low sperm count or affect sperm motility.
- Lifestyle issues:
If you are fond of wearing tight clothes, it may cause your testicles to get over exposed to heat. This may lower your sperm count. In the same way, working with laptop near your groin area, keeping your mobile in your trouser pocket may adversely affect your sperm count too. Physical activities like cycling for long hours may overheat your testicles and lower your fertility.
- Hormonal problems:
If the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, or adrenal glands do not function adequately, then it may cause hormonal imbalance in the body. This may disrupt the production and quality of sperms leading to low sperm count or infertility in men.
- Major diseases:
Other major illnesses can also affect your sperm count. Diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, cancer, tumors, heart ailments, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease etc. are some of the diseases that may affect the quantity and quality of your sperm production leading to infertility issues.
Sensitivity to gluten in foods may also adversely affect your sperm count. Autoimmune defect like your antibodies attacking your own sperm also lowers the sperm count and motility.
- Genetic defects:
Your genes may malfunction giving rise to infertility issues. Klinefelter’s syndrome is one such genetic disorder. It is an anomaly that occurs in the chromosomes of men that appears at birth. There are 46 XY chromosomes in normal men. In men with Klinefelter’s syndrome there are 47XXY chromosomes that may lead to infertility.
- Ejaculation problems:
Men may encounter ejaculation issues that may cause retrograde ejaculation. This implies that during the orgasm, the semen goes into the bladder instead of getting released from the penis. Retrograde ejaculation happens due to many reasons like diabetic neuropathy, spinal injury, Peyronie’s disease, blood pressure medication, or surgery of urinary or reproductive organs.
- Use of lubricants:
In some cases, the use of lubricants tends to adversely affect the sperm movement and their count. This may lower sperm motility and cause difficulty in conceiving. This condition leads to very little or no sperm ejaculation and causes infertility in men.
What are the tests for low sperm count?
Your doctor may ask you to undergo a semen analysis initially. It will test your sperm count. Following this, you may be asked to undergo another semen analysis after 2.5 to 3 months to confirm the initial test.
If your sperm count is found to be low, your doctor may suggest additional tests to ascertain the medical reasons for low sperm production. Scrotal ultrasound, ultrasound of rectum, hormone testing, testicular biopsy, genetic testing, post ejaculation urianalysis, anti sperm antibody testing etc. are some of the tests that may be prescribed by your doctor depending upon your symptoms.
If you are diagnosed with low fertility levels, do not lose hope. There are a number of treatment methods that can either restore your fertility or increase the sperm fertility despite the low count. Apart from genetic defects, disease or injury related infertility issues, change in your lifestyle, physical activity and diet can improve your condition. Yoga and ayurveda can help increase your fertility as well.