Overcoming a low sperm count
Sperm quality and quantity can vary greatly and is affected by your health and nutrition. All semen contains a proportion of poor sperm that can be abnormally-shaped or unable to swim; the problem occurs when there aren’t enough good sperm – sometimes there are no sperm at all.
There are two main reasons for a low or zero sperm count. The first is that the sperm are not being made in the testes (non-obstructive) this can be a hormonal issue. The second is where a blockage prevents the sperm from reaching the ejaculate (obstructive).
It is important that men with absent or low sperm numbers are thoroughly investigated, to ensure that they do not have an underlying illness causing their infertility or a genetic problem.
In some cases it is possible to boost sperm production through lifestyle changes, supplements or medication and this might be sufficient to improve your chances of natural conception.
If treatment is required options include: intrauterine insemination (IUI), where the sperm is injected high into the uterus; or IVF, where the eggs are collected and a single sperm injected sperm directly into the egg, a process called ICSI.
Mr Oliver Wiseman says: “In 50% of cases, there is a male factor contributing to fertility problems, so early assessment of the male side is important, and that can be done with a semen analysis.
“Sperm is produced in the testicles. The testis have only two jobs: to produce the male hormone testosterone and to make sperm. Unlike the female, where all her eggs are present at birth, sperm is produced continuously and even a short period of illness can impact production.
“This is why, if there are abnormalities in a semen analysis, it is important that these patients are seen by a male infertility specialist, because there may be things we can diagnose or advise that will improve sperm count.
“If we can improve sperm quality then the couple may be able to conceive naturally, or if they do need IVF treatment, it will make it more successful.”