When it comes to infertility, most people equate it with a woman being unable to conceive. But men also experience infertility, in fact, more than one in three infertility situations involve male factor infertility, whether it’s a low sperm count or another sperm limitation. Often there are multiple factors that lead to infertility and all can be upsetting obstacles when trying to conceive. Let’s look a little further into what causes male factor infertility and ways to overcome that barrier.
Why Sperm Count Is Low
You can have a low sperm count because of varicocele, which are bulging veins located above the testicles, having an undescended testicle or an infection in the testicle (or in your prostate), inhibiting sperm production. Undergoing chemotherapy for cancer as well as taking certain medications like anabolic steroids or anti-seizure medicines can inhibit healthy sperm count. And don’t discount your family tree, as hereditary abnormalities can interrupt sperm development. Your hormones can also dampen sperm count.
Overcoming Low Sperm Count
So what is considered a normal sperm count? Between 15 million and 200 million. You are considered to have a low sperm count with a number of 15 million or below. The good news is, there is help for men with a low sperm count and some things are actually in a man’s control to increase needed sperm count.
Increasing Sperm Count
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol and recreational drug use
- Check with your family doctor about medications that might be lowering your sperm count
- Lose any excess weight
- Avoid high-stress environments
- Avoid pesticides and heavy metals
- Stay out of high heat like saunas, hot tubs and jacuzzis
Why Sperm Health Matters
Optimal conditions for successful conception rely on having healthy sperm make their way to a woman’s mature egg so it can be fertilized. With a low sperm count, the odds of reaching the egg are diminished, lowering their chances of conception. If a man has an extremely low sperm count or issues with the sperm motility, then the success rate does go down. However even with lower sperm counts, thanks to modern infertility treatment, there is hope!
1-In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): This common fertility option involves stimulating the production of numerous eggs during a woman’s cycle, timing and inducing ovulation, after which mature eggs collected and fertilized in a laboratory setting and grown for five days. The healthiest embryo(s) can then be placed into the uterus of the woman. While it is true that IVF alone has a good rate of success, by combining IVF with ICSI, we can increase the success rate even further to combat low sperm count. ICSI is the process of taking an active sperm and injecting it into each individual viable egg that was collected during IVF. This method is often highly successful.
2-Having a Hormonal Treatment: Sometimes a man will have diminished levels of pituitary hormones which stimulate the creation of necessary sperm. In this case, we can try a hormone treatment which is a less invasive treatment, where Clomid or HCG is taken to boost sperm count and raise the potential of conception. One thing to be aware of is taking supplemental testosterone will cause a significant loss in sperm production and should not be taken if trying to conceive.
3-Taking Antibiotics: Sometimes having a low sperm count stems from something as simple as an infection in the body where it gets in the way of healthy sperm production or viability of the sperm because of scarring that inhibits traveling sperm. Getting rid of an infection with antibiotics increases the odds of obtaining healthy sperm.
4-Surgery: Typically a last resort, surgery can also correct sperm blockage.
5-Intrauterine Insemination: A common fertility procedure in which the sperm are washed, concentrated, and placed directly into a woman’s uterus. By placing the sperm into the uterus, a greater number of motile sperm have a better chance to fertilize an egg.
Pregnancy is still possible even when the male partner does not produce any sperm. Utilizing donor sperm for an insemination or for an IVF cycle allows families to still experience the pregnancy and is something to consider when facing that challenge.
We Can Help
As you can see, there are a variety of treatments that can successfully combat male infertility to help you reach your dream of parenting. Our board-certified endocrinologists and experienced team at the Idaho Fertility Center in Idaho Falls, are ready to offer you the most compatible options to improve your sperm health based on your needs. Helping you become a father is our goal!