What is normal sperm count?
The World Health Organization (WHO) offers a comprehensive definition of normal sperm count. This definition is used to diagnose if a man has normal or low sperm count by all doctors. WHO says that the total volume of semen should be more than 2 ml to be considered normal and the sperm concentration should be more than 20 million per milliliter of semen. This basically translates into the fact that the semen sample taken for analysis should contain at least 40 million sperms.
The WHO also mentions certain other criteria for the semen sample to be considered normal. It states that less than 25 percent of the sperm cells should be dead. This means that the sample should contain more than 75 percent sperms which are alive. At least 30 percent of the sperm should be shaped and formed normally, what is referred to as morphology. The semen of all men includes some sperm cells which are dead or abnormally shaped and it is perfectly normal. However, the percentage of dead sperm or abnormally-shaped sperm should not be more than the above-mentioned figures.
Motility is another factor which is used in the measurement of a normal sperm count. The WHO definition states that at least 25 percent of the sperm should be swimming with a rapid movement in the sample. Whether rapid or sluggish, at least 50 percent of the sperm should be swimming in a forward direction.
Factors that can influence sperm count test results
There are various factors that can affect your sperm count measurement. Even the time elapsed between the ejaculation and the semen analysis can affect the results. Furthermore, if you have collected the sample at home, the container used to store it and transport it to the laboratory may also influence the results.
This is why sometimes two sperm count tests may give different results. Doctors, therefore, recommend that two or three samples are analyzed before arriving at a definite diagnosis since a single sample is inadequate to measure the quantity and quality of semen. The samples are ideally taken two to three weeks apart.
Causes of low sperm count
Here are some of the possible causes of low sperm count:
- Problems with sperm production - such problems can be genetic (for example Klinefelter's syndrome) or based on a hormonal disorder
- Testicular injury and disease - injuries that affect the testicles may affect sperm production and cause low sperm count
- Malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies - deficiency of some nutrients (for example Zinc, Selenium, vitamin C, etc.) may also lead to low sperm count
- Overheating - excessive heat from saunas, hot tubs, etc. may decrease sperm production and lower sperm count
- Smoking - smoking cigarettes may impair male fertility since it is known to reduce sperm count and sperm lifespan
- Drugs - the use of cocaine and heavy marijuana is known to reduce sperm count by 50%
- Excessive alcohol consumption - alcohol is toxic to sperm and may reduce sperm count and quality
- Prescribed medications - many prescription medications are known to reduce sperm count and decrease fertility
- Environmental toxins, radiation and heavy metals - a number of environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins or chemicals, can reduce sperm count either by affecting testicular function directly or by affecting the hormone system
- Obesity - many studies find association between low sperm count and obesity in men
- Stress and excessive physical or mental exertion - these can cause some hormonal changes in the body that can affect sperm count and fertility
- Varicocele - it is not clear how exactly this condition causes infertility in men
- Bicycling - blood vessels and nerves may be damaged due to the pressure from the bike seat
Treatment for low sperm count
The treatment for low sperm count that will be assigned to you will depend on its cause.
However, sometimes the real cause of low sperm count is never found. Additionally, many disorders affecting sperm production cannot be cured at all or do not respond well to treatment.
Yet, this does not mean that you should be reconciled to the problem. There are a lot of things you can do to reduce the risk of low sperm count.
- Switch to a healthier, balanced diet, rich in vegetables and whole grains.
- Exercise regularly.
- Try to reduce stress.
- Keep weight off; if you are overweight, lose the excess weight.
- Don't smoke.
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption.
- Don't use recreational drugs.
- Ejaculate less often; maintain a gap of three days between ejaculations.
- Avoid tight underwear, saunas, hot tubs and anything else that may increase the temperature of the testicles.
Maintaining a healthy weight, sticking to a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and illegal drugs can all help you get your sperm count back to norm. Add to this healthy lifestyle the proper blend of herbs, vitamins and minerals and you will be able not only to increase your sperm count but also improve sperm quality and motility. Probably the easiest way to do that is to start taking quality semen enhancement tablets that will provide you with the right ingredients to increase your sperm count safely and effectively like volumepills.
How much sperm does it take to get pregnant?
Well, simply said all you require is one sperm to get pregnant. However, the answer is much more complex than that. Yes, it is true that only one of the million sperms released in a man's ejaculation will move up into the fallopian tube of a woman and fertilize the egg present there, thus forming a new life. However, whether one of those million sperms will actually travel there and cause conception is something that depends on a lot of factors.
This is probably why a man's testicles produce millions of sperms each day and with each ejaculation a 100 million to 400 million sperms are released into the female reproductive system at orgasm during sexual intercourse. Each of these sperm cells has a head and tail of its own.
Not all sperm cells are capable of fertilizing
However, not all of them will be normally shaped. Some may have two heads or two tails or may have some other important constituent missing, which makes it incapable of reaching or fertilizing an egg.
That's not all, some of these sperms will be dead so they are no good for fertilization purposes. There will be other sperms that will not be motile. Motility refers to the swimming capacity or the ability of the sperm to move in a forward and straight direction towards the egg. If it is not quick enough, it may die before it reaches the egg.
The survival time of sperm in a woman's body also plays a role
You also need to consider the amount of time the sperm can survive in a woman's reproductive system. Typically, sperm can survive around one to four days in a woman's body. The survival time depends on various factors such as the health of sperm and the environment inside the female reproductive system.
When all these factors are combined, it actually reduces the amount of sperm capable of causing conception to around 50 percent. But even this provides good chances of getting the woman pregnant.
Sperm count, motility, and morphology
Low sperm count is one of the factors that are considered to reduce your chances of conceiving. So are motility and shape of the sperm cells. However, whether a sperm cell is able to fertilize an egg is purely a gamble. This is why even men with low sperm count are able to get a woman pregnant without any efforts whereas others with normal sperm count often end up trying for one whole year to conceive.
Of course, there are many other factors that may be playing a role here such as timing of sex and the woman's age.
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