Semen analysis test measures sperm quantity in various ways. Sperm count represents the total number of sperm present per ejaculate.
Your sperm count depends on the volume of semen produced in ejaculation. The volume of semen varies. Sometimes when you have practiced abstinence for more than three days, your semen volume is higher.
A semen sample (or ejaculate) typically contains 39 million to 928 million sperm cells.
If the sperm count is lower than 39 million, it comes under the category of oligospermia.
Azoospermia is the complete absence of sperm. In this condition, semen analysis shows no sperm cells under the microscope.
If you are trying to have a baby- or plan to have one in the future- your sperm count should be adequate. If it is greater than 39 million, you are likely in good shape for pregnancy.
Understandably, a sperm count less than 39 million makes pregnancy difficult and leads to infertility. However, the sub-fertility window starts a little earlier.
It does not mean you cannot get pregnant, but it may be harder to achieve. It is better to have a sperm count higher than 40 million at least.
You may be thinking that less than 39 million sperm cells are still a significant amount but it is relative. Sperm count is an umbrella that capes over the other parameters.
It is the most crucial barometer of male fertility because it also determines other characteristics. Not all your sperm cells are motile or perfect in morphology.
Productive sperm motility exists in 40% of sperms, and only 4% are devoid of structural defects. If your sperm count is low, to begin with, these parameters decline automatically.
A low sperm count can be due to various reasons. Some studies show that it starts when the male fetus is in the womb and may continue till the child-bearing age.
A 2018 research confirms that maternal smoking may play an essential role in determining the future sperm count of a male fetus.
Other factors may include the following:
Hormones (androgens) play an important role in low sperm count.
Testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for spermatogenesis. Low levels of testosterone can lead to oligospermia or even azoospermia.
Testosterone deficiency also manifests as sparse facial hair, no change in voice with puberty, or maldevelopment of sexual structures. These are not always signs of low sperm count, but it is still better to perform a semen analysis to be sure.
Sexually transmitted diseases ascend through the penis and urethra. They reach testes and impair spermatogenesis.
Tobacco and other illicit drugs like cocaine reduce your sperm count. They release toxic chemicals in your body that kill sperm as well as make them defective.
Anti-depressants are notorious for affecting sexual health, including low sperm count. Other drugs like selective antibiotics and chemotherapy also cause azoospermia.
Undescended testes or their surgical repair reduce the ability of testes to form an adequate amount of sperm.
It is a common misconception that masturbation leads to a low sperm count.
When you are trying to conceive or taking a sperm count test at home, it is better to practice abstinence for 3 to 5 days. It ensures that your body gets a chance to produce enough semen.
However, masturbation does not lead to any change in your body that can permanently affect your sperm count or make it lower enough to cause infertility.
There are a number of things you can do that may help to improve your sperm count:
You can maintain a healthy lifestyle, but there is no guarantee. Environmental pollution, age, and other factors like the usage of medications can impact your fertility. Test and store your sperm to ensure you have the best possible insurance of your fertility future.