Quandary of not being a parent: Low sperm count in Men

If you are planning to have a family and have been trying to conceive for a long time with no positive results, the reason might be that you have a low sperm count. It can be heartbreaking for a man to know so, as it lowers your chances to father a child. However, it is treatable if you seek help at the right time. 

More often than not, when a couple finds it difficult to get pregnant, the responsibility of that falls on women. We have all endeavoured incidents where women will be seen in a gynaecologist’s cabin, trying to understand why they are not being able to experience the bliss of motherhood.

And if you and your partner have been trying to conceive, but are finding it difficult as every time your partner takes a pregnancy test, it comes out negative. Rather than getting frustrated, we recommend that you as a man visit the doctor and figure out if everything is going good with your sperms or not. 

It might be depressing for a man, however, having a low sperm count is quite common among men and not only leads to frustration but even shame. The truth is that *male infertility is a global problem, affecting about 4% to 12% of men. It contributes to about 20% to 70% of the cases worldwide. 

However, as a man you should know that you are not alone in this sexual health problem. Also, please do make a note of it that when a man finds problems with his sperm count, it doesn not automatically mean that they won’t be able to be a father one day. 

In order to understand more about the reality of low sperm count, we recommend that you keep reading:

What is Low Sperm Count?

Low sperm count, also known as oligospermia, takes place when the semen that a man ejaculates contains fewer sperm than the normal amount. This can be less than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen, while the average is around 75 million sperm per millilitre in the semen. It can make conceiving a child much more difficult for a man, but not impossible. Having a low sperm count is quite common among men. 

Low sperm count is known as the major cause of male infertility. Let’s have a closer look at why a man might deal with low sperm count while trying to expand his family. 

Causes

Some of the risk factors of low sperm count can be obesity, overweight, trauma or surgery in or around the testicles as well as taking certain drugs. Apart from that, the other causes of low sperm count are exposing your testicles to too much heat and having certain medical issues.

However, there can be different reasons for low sperm quality that can be medical, environmental and due to lifestyle. Let’s have a look.

Low sperm count in men is a general phenomena.

Medical

A history of testicular symptoms like back pain, lower leg swelling or bone pain, injury, or surgeries, as well as genetic conditions like Klinefelter syndrome, may increase your chances of having a low sperm count. Also, cancer treatment like chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, may also affect hormone and sperm production.

Other possible causes of low sperm count can be:

  • Swelling in the veins that drain the testicles, which is called Varicocele and is one of the most common causes of male infertility.
  • Previous infections or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which can cause blockages, scarring, or other damage to the reproductive system.
  • Issues with erections or ejaculation (For example, Diabetes and spinal injuries may cause Erectile Dysfunction or Retrograde Ejaculation.)
  • Issues with the immune system.
  • Conditions like Cystic Fibrosis or being a genetic carrier of Cystic Fibrosis may block sperm from entering the semen.
  • Medical procedures, treatments, or medications for a range of conditions, including some cancer, antifungal, antibiotic, and ulcer drugs.
  • Previous surgery to the male reproductive system, such as testicular surgery, bladder surgery, surgery for undescended testicles, inguinal hernia repair or a vasectomy.

Environmental

There are certain environmental factors that need to be taken care of or they can lead to a low sperm count. Overheating of testicles can lead to lower sperm production. This means opting for hot tubs (for a longer period of time) or putting the laptop over your lap is a big no. 

On the other hand, being exposed to herbicides, pesticides, solvents, and other industrial chemicals or heavy metals can also cause low sperm count. Exposure to radiation from X-rays or other sources may harm sperm production as well.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle choices such as heavy drug and alcohol use, as well as using tobacco or vaping can lead to low sperm production. Anabolic steroids, which are usually taken to increase muscle mass, can almost always shrink testicles and decrease sperm production. Marijuana and opioids use is another cause of low sperm count. Other lifestyle activities that can cause low sperm count are:

  • Testosterone boosters, vitamins, and pre-workout supplements marketed toward a workout crowd all may contain small amounts of anabolic steroids, which can impair sperm production.
  • Jobs that require long periods of sitting.
  • Emotional issues, like stress and depression, particularly if they’re long term and severe.
  • Body weight, particularly if you are obese or overweight, can also affect hormones.

Symptoms of Low Sperm Count

There are not any specific symptoms that man’s body shows when they have a low sperm count. Majorly, when a man is trying to have a child, realises that he has low sperm count. As that is when men go through different tests to analyse why they are finding it difficult to have a child. Hence, it is recommended that men go through regular check ups, and figure out the underlying condition, before it’s too late.

However, if you have an underlying condition, such as a hormone imbalance, chromosomal abnormality, testicular issue, or blockage, you might feel the following symptoms:

  • Low sex drive.
  • Erectile Dysfunction.
  • Swelling or pain in or around the testicles.
  • Less facial or body hair.

Diagnosis of Low Sperm Count

If you have been having unprotected sex with your partner on a regular basis but have not been able to conceive, you must see a urologist as soon as possible. The urologist will perform a physical exam as well as review your medical history. They will also ask you for a semen analysis to check for motility as well as morphology. Some of the other test that you might need to go for are:

  • Blood tests to check hormones or chromosomes.
  • Ultrasound to visualise the testicles or prostate.
  • Biopsy to evaluate sperm production in the case of blockages.

Treatment

When it comes to treating low sperm count in a man, the treatment depends on the cause of it. You can also opt for the TTC (Trying to Conceive) routine or the fertility diet to conceive as it makes pregnancy more possible. 

If you are dealing with large varicoceles, blockages, or issues with sperm leaving the body, you can opt for a surgery. In other cases, sperm can be directly obtained for assisted reproduction procedures like In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) by surgically retrieving it from the testicle or epididymis.

Conclusion

Having a low sperm count can certainly be traumatic for a man as it lessens his chances of being a father. However, there are quite a few treatments for it now, all thanks to advanced medicine. There is no need to feel ashamed, embarrassed or guilty about it as it is not your fault. If you are dealing with a low sperm count then talk to a urologist now and fulfil your dream of having your own family.

Footnote

Male infertility is a global problem: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275666399_A_unique_view_on_male_infertility_around_the_globe#:~:text=Male%20infertility%20is%20a%20global,the%20highest%20rates%20%5B43%5D%20

%d bloggers like this: