Male Infertility And Sperm Count
Up to 12% of couples suffer from infertility worldwide. The perception is that infertility is a woman’s issue. However, men are as likely to be infertile as women. Doctors can trace most problems to sperm count, namely oligospermia or azoospermia. Here’s what happens in both situations.
Why sperm count matters
For couples trying to conceive naturally, sperm count is a vital part of the process. Yes, only one sperm can fertilize one egg. However, a healthy sperm count increases the chances of this happening exponentially. A healthy sperm count is categorized as 15 million to 200 million sperm per milliliter of semen. High sperm count helps healthy sperm to reach the egg and even bypass any issues that can limit pregnancy.
What is Oligospermia?
Oligospermia refers to low sperm count. Oligospermia can be mild, between 10-15 million sperm/mL, or moderate, between 5-10 million sperm/mL. There are also severe cases, ranging from 0 to 5 million sperm/mL. Men with oligospermia can still conceive with time. However, the degree of oligospermia can impact the chances of having children.
Reasons you’re running low
Most cases of low sperm count are lifestyle-related. For instance, obesity, drug and alcohol use, exposure to harsh environments, heat, and heavy metals can impact sperm count. On the other hand, medical conditions can also cause oligospermia. These include retrograde ejaculation, STIs varicocele, or hormone imbalances. Certain medications can also affect sperm production. A reproductive specialist will look for each of these reasons to decide the best course of action.
What is Azoospermia?
Azoospermia is a condition wherein there is no sperm in the ejaculate. This severe condition can be classified as obstructive or non-obstructive. Obstructive azoospermia happens when something is blocking the sperm from combining with the ejaculate. Non-obstructive azoospermia happens when the testicles produce little or no sperm. The condition is rare, with doctors diagnosing only 1% of men every year. However, the condition causes 10-15% of infertility cases.
Is the dream over for good?
An oligospermia or azoospermia diagnosis can be disheartening and emotionally damaging. For an oligospermia diagnosis, there are still some ways to increase sperm count. Lifestyle changes, medication, or even surgery can help. Men with obstructive azoospermia may benefit from surgery. However, non-obstructive cases will need help in the form of Assisted Reproductive Technology.
Turning to IVF
Non-obstructive causes of azoospermia and severe oligospermia can benefit from IVF. In vitro fertilization is the gold standard of Assisted Reproductive Technology. A fertility clinic will extract a sperm sample and create and embryos with eggs in a fertility lab. The mature embryo is then implanted in the woman’s uterus and monitored for pregnancy. For some cases of azoospermia, a doctor can extract sperm samples from the testes with a small needle. If these fail, a donor sample may be necessary, removing the chances of having biological children.
Look for the signs and take action
Oligospermia and azoospermia are linked to sperm count, which directly affects fertility. Look for symptoms such as lack of pregnancy, low sex drive, painful testicles, or erectile dysfunction. Cases of azoospermia may accompany developmental issues like decreased facial and body hair. Seek advice from a reproductive endocrinologist so treatment can start as soon as possible.