If you have recently had a low sperm count during a semen analysis, you may experience, anxiety, frustration, and even embarrassment. However, abnormalities with sperm are quite common. In fact, about 20 to 30% of men will have an abnormal semen analysis. Sperm counts can go up and down for a variety of reasons, including recent illness/fever and most recently following a symptomatic COVID infection. As a result, many cases of abnormal semen analyses may only be a transient issue.
Sperm are produced by the testes every 61 to 72 days. If you have an abnormal semen analysis, your doctor will perform another analysis 3 to 4 weeks later. If you have a consistently low sperm count, further evaluation can be initiated.
What is a Healthy Sperm Count?
Typically, in a semen analysis, your doctor will want to see your sperm concentrations above 15 million sperm per milliliter. Here are some tips that may help increase sperm production if your semen analysis is lower than expected.
5 Ways to Improve Sperm Count
Limit alcohol intake
Most things are best in moderation and alcohol is no exception. Chronic and excessive alcohol use has been found to negatively impact male reproductive hormones and semen quality. The results from studies are inconsistent and there is no one study that gives direction on how much alcohol you should drink before your fertility is negatively impacted. But generally, fertility specialists recommend consuming less 4 to 6 glasses of wine (or the equivalent) a week.
Smoking tobacco is not only harmful to your lungs, it can also have a detrimental impact on your fertility. A meta-analysis of 20 studies with 5,865 participants found that smoking tobacco reduces sperm count and motility (how the sperm move/swim). If you’re smoker and trying to get pregnant, ask your doctor for resources on how to quit.
Maintain a healthy weight
As with many factors when it comes to fertility, being in good overall health is beneficial for your sperm production. Men who are overweight, meaning a body mass index (BMI) over 28, may have lower sperm counts.
When you are carrying excess weight, there can be an imbalance in your reproductive hormone levels. Men who are overweight may have lower testosterone and increased estrogen, both of which can impact sperm production.
Focus on eating a well-balanced diet with high-quality protein and fiber, exercise 3 to 4 days a week, and aim for a BMI between 21 to 26.
There is not a single supplement that can improve sperm count, at least none that has been proven in the medical literature. However, taking steps to improve your overall wellness can carry over to improve the health of your sperm.
Antioxidants are important for reducing oxidative stress in the testes and possibly increasing sperm count. They can possibly optimize your ability to produce healthy sperm, which can swim well in order to fertilize an egg.
Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is an antioxidant that can support healthy sperm growth. Taking an appropriate multivitamin can provide additional antioxidants such as zinc, selenium, and vitamin C—all of which are used by the testes to support sperm production.
Be cautious of overheating
One thing we do know about sperm is that they’re averse to high temperatures. The testes are sensitive to heat, and activities such as laptop exposure and excessive bike riding can raise the temperature between your legs. So if you like to sit on the couch with a laptop, try to use a lap desk as a barrier. If you’re an avid cyclist, take breaks or shorter rides, and avoid spending time long periods of time in hot tubs.
Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about your sperm count or any other sperm issues. There are many reasons why men can experience infertility, and low sperm count is only one of them. Make an appointment with a CCRM Fertility specialists for a full fertility work-up.
Written by: Dr. Aaron Styer, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist at CCRM Fertility Boston