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Infertility and treatment

Everything you need to know about sperm count

Close up of sperm cells

Did you know that your sperm count is considered low if the amount of sperm cells per millilitre is below 15 million? If you are interested in learning more about sperm count, then read this blog post, where we help you understand the concept of sperm count, how to determine it, and what type of potential treatment that can help improve a low sperm count.

What is sperm count?

Sperm count refers to the number of sperm cells produced per ejaculation. A man’s sperm count is measured in the number of sperm cells per millilitre of sperm. Most men will have millions of sperm cells per millilitre of sperm and below we have gathered the number for each category of sperm count:

  • Low sperm count: If you have less than 15 million sperm cells per millilitre of sperm, you have a low sperm count, which may harm on your chances of conceiving naturally.
  • Normal sperm count: A normal sperm count ranges between 15 to 200 million sperm cells per millilitre of sperm.
  • High sperm count: Men with more than 200 million sperm cells per millilitre of sperm have a high sperm count, which is often a sign of good sperm quality.

Difference between sperm count and sperm quality

When talking about sperm count it is important to mention that sperm count is not equivalent to sperm quality. Sperm quality is based on different factors like the shape of the sperm cells, their ability to move (also called sperm motility) and penetrate the egg, as well as the number of sperm cells per ejaculation. This means, that your sperm quality can be normal despite having a low sperm count.

Illustration of normal and low sperm count

Illustration of the difference between normal and low sperm count

What affects your sperm count?

Studies have shown that several factors can affect your sperm count and thus affect your chances of conceiving naturally. Some of the largest factors affecting sperm count is:

Age: According to this study, the sperm count decreases by approximately 2,1 percentage each year. Other studies confirm a similar pattern. This study found that men in their 40’s and 50’s had 40% fewer spermatids (early stage of a sperm cell) than men in their 20’s and 30’s.

Health: There is no definitive answer to the question regarding the correlation between health and sperm count, but it is generally accepted that better health leads to higher sperm count.

Lifestyle: A healthy lifestyle will generally lead to a higher sperm count. This means eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, as well as avoiding drug and alcohol use.

Medications: Most types of medication does not impact the sperm count negatively. There are a few exceptions, however, such as certain chemotherapy drugs, which can significantly reduce sperm count.

Semen analysis: Get to know you sperm count and quality

The only way for you to know whether you have a low, normal, or high sperm count is to have your sperm tested. If you are struggling to conceive, a semen analysis could provide helpful insight and might help you figure out how to improve your sperm count.

It is possible to receive a semen analysis at Cryos. Here below we have described the process of a sperm analysis:

  • Step 1: Contact the closest Cryos department and schedule an appointment. When making the appointment, our staff will perform an initial screening by phone.
  • Step 2: When you arrive for your appointment, you will be asked to fill in documents regarding the sperm analysis. Then our staff will direct you to a room where you can make the sperm sample. It is also possible to do the sample at home.
  • Step 3: Once you have made the sperm sample, it will be analysed in our laboratory and you can expect to receive the results by e-mail or telephone.

Follow the link to read more about sperm analysis.

Low sperm count

If you have never struggled with conceiving a child, then the term “low sperm count” may be new to you. Still, an increasing number of men find themselves reading about the term when they try to achieve a pregnancy with their partner. One in three heterosexual couples experience infertility problems, which in some cases is caused by low sperm count.

What is a low sperm count?

Low sperm count means that the number of sperm cells in your ejaculation is lower than normal. The normal number of sperm cells per millilitre of sperm is 15 million and anything below this is considered as low.

If you have a complete absence of sperm cells in your ejaculation, it is called azoospermia. If you have azoospermia, it is almost impossible for you to achieve a pregnancy using your sperm. In this case, you may need to investigate alternatives, like donor sperm.

Signs of low sperm count and their causes

Often, there are no physical symptoms of low sperm count. It is only visible through a microscope, where you can count the number of sperm cells in an ejaculate. The symptoms are not visible, because they often are an underlying problem, like a hormonal imbalance or an inherited chromosomal abnormality.

In some cases, there are physical symptoms which may be:

  • Pain or swelling around the testicle area
  • Problems when having sex, either because of a lack of sex drive or difficulty maintaining an erection
  • A decreased amount of facial or body hair that stems from a hormone abnormality
Couple that became pregnant through artificial insemination

Getting pregnant with a normal sperm count

Even though you have a normal sperm count, you can still struggle with infertility. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer, despite everything being normal. The best advice is to keep on trying and track your partners ovulation, to make sure that you have intercourse just before ovulation, to increase chances of becoming pregnant. If you want to read more about how to improve your chances of getting pregnant, then follow the link to our blog post.

If you have tried to become pregnant for more than a year, you may need fertility treatment to fulfil your dreams of a child. If your sperm count is normal, you will start with IUI treatment. A form of artificial insemination, where the doctor injects the sperm into the uterus with a thin plastic tube, thereby helping the sperm get closer to the egg, which increases the chances of fertilization.

Getting pregnant with low sperm count

If an altered lifestyle is not enough, you and your partner can try fertility treatment. Depending on the number of sperm cells per million, there are different treatments for you to use. Below we have explained the different types of fertility treatments and how they can help men with low sperm count on their way toward parenthood:

IVF treatment: IVF treatment is a bit more complicated than IUI and ICI treatment because the eggs need to be retrieved in order to be fertilized with sperm cells in a lab. After fertilization, they hopefully grow into an embryo, which the doctor will transfer to the woman. If you suffer from low sperm count, you will most likely start with IVF, because the chance of conception increases when the sperm cell is placed alongside the egg in a petri dish.

ICSI treatment: ICSI treatment is like IVF treatment, the only difference is that in ICSI the sperm cell is injected straight into the egg. ICSI treatment is recommended for men with very low sperm count (or low sperm motility) because the injection of sperm provides the best chances possible for conception.

If neither of the above-mentioned fertility treatments help you on your way toward parenthood, you might need help from a sperm donor. You can start your journey by reading other men’s stories about fatherhood through sperm donation:

You can also start by researching the available options for sperm donors in our Donor Search. Click the button below to see our Donor Search. 

Sperm Donor Search