What Is Sperm Concentration?


Sperm concentration is the number of sperms (in million) present per milliliter of the semen sample (millions of sperm/mL). As per WHO standards, a healthy sperm concentration may range between 16 million to 208 million.1

 

Is Sperm Count And Sperm Concentration The Same?

 
Sperm concentration and sperm count are not the same entity. Sperm count refers to the number of sperms found in a given semem sample. On the other hand, sperm concentration refers to the number of sperms found in 1 mL of semen. Sperm count varies with the semen volume since we consider the entire ejaculate whereas sperm concentration remains constant since we take only 1 mL of the ejaculate into account.

 

Importance Of Sperm Concentration

 
As we all know, the semen ejaculated by men possess a massive number of sperms, usually in millions. All of these tiny swimmers start their journey together. In order to fertilize with an egg, sperms need to swim through the vagina, uterus and the fallopian tube. Unfortunately, only a few of the sperms are able to reach the egg for the fertilization process. This is where sperm concentration tends to play a vital role. In short, more the sperm concentration, more are the chances for fertilization to occur.2

 

Factors Affecting Sperm Concentration 


Measurements of sperm concentration provide useful information for diagnosing male infertility. The following factors have an effect on sperm concentration which include:3

 

1. Abstinence Period:

Sexual abstinence was found to affect all semen characteristics wherein semen concentration showed significant increases.4

 

2. Environmental Factors:

Adverse environmental factors and exposure to environmental pollutants lead to decreased sperm concentration.5

 

3. Tobacco And Alcohol: 

Several studies, both in humans and animals, confirm detrimental effects of smoking and alcohol usage thereby decreasing sperm concentration.6

 

4. Weight: 

Men who are overweight or obese are found to produce lesser sperms when compared to the other men which lessens the chances of conception.7

 

5. Seminal Infection:

Men affected by certain infections such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV) etc., might affect semen parameters including sperm concentration.8

 

6. Testosterone Levels: 

Since testosterone is involved in the production of sperms, low levels of the hormone may hinder sperm production which affects sperm concentration.8

 

7. Recreational Drugs:

Studies show association of Cannabis marijuana) and Cocaine (a highly addictive, strong stimulant drug) with low sperm concentration.9

 

8. Psychological Stress: 

Any form of stress can damage male’s reproductive potential. Studies have reported that psychological stress could lead to low sperm concentration.9

 

Sperm Concentration And Fertility 


Understanding Oligozoospermia


Fact: 

Oligozoospermia is a male condition characterised by a low sperm count in the ejaculate despite normal sexual and ejaculatory function. According to the severity of the decreased sperm concentration, oligozoospermia is divided into three categories: 

  • Mild (number of sperms ranges between 10-15 million/mL)
  • Moderate (number of sperms ranges between 5-10 million/mL)
  • Severe (number of sperms ranges less than 5 million/mL) 10, 11

 

Implication: 

Semen samples affected by oligozoospermia are of poor quality and males with oligospermia are likely to have difficulty conceiving due to the low number of sperms that can reach the egg. The chance of conception may be lower than in a healthy male, depending on the sperm count. Oligozoospermia can be caused by a variety of circumstances - Chronic stress, sleep disorders, job and emotional issues, unhealthy lifestyle, obesity, and the use of alcohol, tobacco, or recreational drugs. The condition can be permanent or reversible depending on the cause. When oligozoospermia is combined with additional defects in sperm cell features, the possibilities of a successful pregnancy are reduced even further. Surgical treatment is advised if due to an obstructive cause. The best option to achieve pregnancy would be to seek the most adequate treatment. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) can also be considered (IUI, IVF or ICSI based on total motile count).10, 11


Oligozoospermia may also have a genetic linkage wherein certain genes may be responsible for the occurence of the condition. Take up InferGenes test, an at-home genetic test that helps analyze the genetic root cause of the condition.

 

Ways To Improve Your Sperm Health 


1. Avoid Smoking:

 
Semen parameters and sperm function test results are lower in smokers than in nonsmokers. Most of these effects are usually dose-dependent.12

 

2. Reduce Alcohol Consumption And Drug Use: 

Drugs (steroids, marijuana) and alcohol can negatively impact sperm health leading to abnormally shaped sperm, decreased sperm motility and/or decreased sperm production.13

 

3. Maintain Healthy Weight:

 
There exists a clear link between obesity and reduced sperm production. Overweight men who want to improve their fertility should maintain a healthy weight.14

 

4. Practice Safe Sex: 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a leading cause of infertility. Having safe sex today may increase your chances of conception in the future.13

 

5. Reduce Heat Exposure:

Men who are exposed to prolonged high heat (like hot tubs or using laptops on your lap)  can affect your fertility by lowering sperm production.13, 14

 

6. Avoid Commercial Lubricants: 

Some commercial lubricants/substances used for lubrication should be avoided during the fertile period. This may reduce sperm movement and their ability to survive.14


7. Choose The Right Clothing:

Men who wear heat retaining clothes experience decreased sperm production. 13 As per studies wearing brief underwear may decrease sperm quality.14

 

8. Manage Your Stress:

Many stress-reducing techniques like Meditation, Yoga, Music, Therapies etc., can effectively keep stress at bay.15


How Can You Check Sperm Concentration?


You can get a semen analysis done. Semen analysis evaluates the characteristics of a male's semen and the sperm contained therein. 


As a result of social stigma in some parts of the world, many men refrain from getting their semen tested. While in-clinic semen analysis was the only choice previously, there is now an at-home option that delivers concrete data. With LifeCell’s SpermScore, get clarity on your fertility by testing 11 sperm health parameters and 14 sperm health conditions from the comfort of your home!

 

 

References 

 

  1. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240030787  
  2. https://www.fertilitysmarts.com/definition/1259/sperm-concentration  
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7319648/ 
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7820161/ 
  5. https://enveurope.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12302-021-00585-w  
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29334961/ 
  7. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/excess-weight-sperm-fertility/  
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24051979/ 
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29713532/ 
  10. https://fertilitypedia.org/edu/diagnoses/oligozoospermia  
  11. https://www.invitra.com/en/oligozoospermia/  
  12. https://www.reproductivefacts.org/globalassets/asrm/asrm-content/news-and-publications/practice-guidelines/for-non-members/smoking_and_infertility.pdf  
  13. https://www.reproductivefacts.org/globalassets/asrm/asrm-content/learning--resources/patient-resources/protect-your-fertility3/asrm_brochure.pdf 
  14. https://www.reproductivefacts.org/news-and-publications/patient-fact-sheets-and-booklets/documents/fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/optimizing-male-fertility/  
  15. https://www.reproductivefacts.org/globalassets/rf/news-and-publications/bookletsfact-sheets/english-fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/stress_and_infertility_factsheet.pdf  

References