Overview: Low sperm count
A low sperm count in the UK is defined as a man who has less than 15 million sperm cells per millilitre of semen.
Having a low sperm count will make it difficult to conceive naturally, although it may still be possible.
Apart from the quantity of sperm, when talking about fertility, sperm quality is another factor to consider. Low sperm count and poor-quality sperm are some of the most common fertility problems effecting couples today.
Checking sperm count
If after a year of trying to conceive you have not succeeded it may the right time to speak to your doctor or a fertility clinic.
It is important for both partners to be examined to identify the route of the problem. Low sperm count can be one of many factors that are preventing pregnancy from occurring. Once the exact cause, or causes, are identified the appropriate course of action may be taken.
The sperm analysis is generally done by examining semen under a microscope which shows how many sperm cells are within a square in a grid. In some cases, computers may also be used to do the measurement.
Before semen can be checked, a sample will need to be provided. The sample will need to be placed in a special container. Several samples, over a period of time may be needed to determine your actual sperm count as the amount of sperm detected will naturally vary from time to time. This approach is needed to make the most accurate assessment.
Accuracy of sperm count
To ensure accuracy in the results, you should take the following steps:
- Make sure all the semen is collected in the container provided for the sample
- Abstain from ejaculating for 2 to 7 days before collecting the sample
- Collect and analyse another sample a week or two after the first one
- Avoid using lubricants as they can affect the test results.
Sperm analysis and results
A healthy range for sperm is between 15 and 200 million cells per millilitre of semen. If less than 15 million you will be diagnosed as having a low sperm count.
As sperm count decreases the changes of successfully conceiving naturally also goes down.
Having said that there are many factors to consider when it comes to fertility, it’s never straightforward. It’s possible for some men with low sperm count to have children without the need for fertility treatment. There are other men who have normal sperm count who are not able to have children naturally. There are so many factors that affect both men and women that it needs very specific analysis to understand where the problem is and find a solution.
Is fertility treatment for everyone?
There are a variety of fertility treatment technique available to people, each slightly different to suit the varying needs and complications related to fertility. Despite this, there is still no guarantee that any treatment will be successful. It is important to have a realistic expectation of the potential outcome.
Additionally, there will be some people who can’t have fertility treatment because the chances of success are extremely low, or impossible, because of their condition.
A pre-treatment assessment will determine whether there is a fertility treatment to suit you.
Causes of low sperm count
It’s not totally clear what causes low sperm count.
Some contributing factors to low sperm count or quality issues include:
- Hormone imbalance
- A genetic problem
- Having had undescended testicles as a baby
- Structural problem – tubes that carry sperm being damaged and blocked by illness or injury
- Genital infection or disease
- Previous surgery or treatment to the testicle
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Some medications – long term testosterone replacement and anabolic steroid use.
- Cancer treatments
Treatment that may be considered for low sperm count
Most fertility drugs given to women are used to help with ovulation. Clomifene and gonadotrophins are among the most commonly prescribed fertility drugs by doctors. They work by regulating your reproductive hormones and trigger the release of eggs in each ovulation cycle. Some fertility drugs may also be used on men, but this will need to be discussed with you doctor.
ICSI Is a fertility treatment for men and is quite often combined with IVF treatment. ICSI requires only one healthy sperm cell, which is injected directly into the egg. The embryo, or fertilised egg, is then placed back into the womb to grow and develop.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a fertility treatment carried out to help with certain types of fertility problems. It works by placing sperm inside the uterus to increases the odds of sperm reaching the fallopian tubes and pregnancy occurring.
This procedure will only work if the fallopian tubes allow for sperm to pass through. The treatment requires at least one healthy tube.
One of the best know fertility treatments, the procedure works by extracting an egg from the women’s ovaries and fertilising it outside of the body in a laboratory. The fertilised egg is then return to the womb to develop
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