Here’s the thing about finding out that you have a low sperm count: it doesn’t have to end your dream of fathering a child. In fact, boosting your fertility might be as simple as switching up your diet and getting more exercise.
But first things first.
You’ve confirmed that your sperm count is low. Let’s find out what this means.
Maybe you and your partner have had trouble conceiving—or are thinking about getting pregnant—and decided to determine just how fertile you are. Sounds right. You pick up a sperm count test kit to take at home—like SpermCheck—and discover that you’re packing fewer than 20 million of those little guys per milliliter, which would likely create conception issues.
Remember: Sperm are produced in the testicles and require just the right environment—like temperature, hormone levels and correct signaling from the nervous system—for 150 million of them to mix with semen that gets released during ejaculation. It just takes a few degrees or not enough testosterone to send sperm counts plummeting.
Before you start to panic, you need to know that some guys have no problem fathering a baby naturally with sperm counts below this level. Also, sperm count can vary from day to day or improve with lifestyle changes, so it is possible that you might get a positive result if you were to wait a while and take the test again.
Okay, what are some of the causes of low sperm count?
There are a lot of environmental and biological factors potentially affecting your sperm count—from wearing pants that are too snug to drinking bottled water. Here are some of the more common causes of male infertility:
- Hormonal imbalances
Once you’ve determined your sperm count is low, you’ll want to become a fertility detective and investigate what’s wrong and how to hopefully make it right.
Step 1: Make an appointment with your doctor.
Seeking out a medical professional is the obvious first step. But just what kind of doctor should you see?
“The first step is an evaluation by a physician specializing in male infertility,” Stephen Shaban, MD, a urologist specializing in male reproductive medicine and microsurgery in Raleigh, North Carolina, tells WebMD.
A reproductive endocrinologist, or fertility doctor, can perform a semen analysis to confirm whether the results of your home test were accurate and that you have less than 39 million sperm total per ejaculate. To do so, you’ll be asked to provide a semen sample at your doctor’s visit.
Your doctor might then recommend further testing to try to pin down the possible causes for your low sperm count, as well as other factors—like the quality of your sperm (how they’re formed and how good they are at moving around) or a varicocele (an enlarged vein in your scrotum)—that are common causes of male infertility. This could include everything from a physical examination, which would uncover a varicocele, to hormone and genetic testing, to a scrotal ultrasound.
Step 2: Increasing your sperm count
Once your doctor has determined the cause for your low sperm count, treatment will try to address the cause and start increasing the number of sperm you’re producing. Possible treatments include:
- Hormone treatments and medication
- Changing your diet
- Increasing physical activity
- Weight loss
Step 3: Monitor your progress
Once you’ve determined the cause for your low sperm count and have worked with your physician to identify ways to increase sperm production, you will want to monitor the effectiveness of treatment. SpermCheck is an over-the-counter male fertility test that measures your sperm count and is a lot easier—and more private—than that awkward trip to the doctor to provide a sperm sample.
With a little detective work and a lot of patience, there just may be a baby waiting at the end of that long road to fertility.