What Is Sperm Count?


Sperm count refers to the total sperm number present in the semen sample. As per WHO standards, a normal sperm count may range between 39 million to 701 million per ejaculate 1. At any given time, a man's sperm count in his semen ejaculated is determined by two key elements 2

 

  • Sertoli cells in the testes (responsible for testes formation and sperm development) 
  • Abstinence period (time since last ejaculation)

Sperm - Basics And Characteristics

 

Sperms are produced in small structures called the seminiferous tubules within each testicle. The two oval-shaped testicles of a man who has reached sexual maturity produce and store millions of microscopic sperm cells. Each sperm is incredibly tiny, measuring only 1/600 of an inch (0.05 millimeters long). During birth, the seminiferous tubules contain simple spherical cells. Testosterone and other hormones induce these cells to change into sperm cells throughout adolescence. The cells tend to divide and alter themselves until a head and a short tail emerge.

The DNA in the head of the sperm is what creates a new individual when it fuses with the DNA in the egg. The tip of the sperm head called the acrosome allows the sperm to penetrate. The mitochondria in the midpiece provide the energy required for the tail to move. The tail makes whip-like movements back and forth to drive the sperm towards the egg. 

Factors Affecting Sperm Count 


Decrease in sperm count is typically coupled with lower sperm quality, such as less motility or aberrant shape, which adds to the unfavorable impact 2. Problems with sperm count may be linked to: 3

  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Seminal Infection
  • Age  
  • Genital Operations 
  • Deficiencies in certain nutrients
  • Medical conditions 
  • Testosterone levels 
  • Adverse lifestyle factors

 

Variation In Sperm Count 


1. Low Sperm Count:


Low sperm count means that the sperm number in the ejaculate is fewer than normal. It may be more difficult to conceive naturally if one has low sperm count. Despite this, many men with low sperm counts can nonetheless father a kid. Low sperm count can be due to several hidden defects such as: 4

 

  • Inherited chromosomal abnormality: Inherited medical disorder caused due to abnormality in the DNA
  • Hormonal imbalance:  When there is too much or too little of a hormone in the bloodstream.
  • Varicocele: A medical condition characterized by dilated testicular veins
  • Conditions that blocks the passage of sperm: This can be caused due to any infection or defects of tubules that transport sperm

 

2. High Sperm Count: 


Even while only one sperm is required to fertilize an egg, the journey there can be challenging. In short, more the sperms, better are the chances. 

 

Sperm Count And Fertility 


1. Understanding Azoospermia

 
Fact:

 Azoospermia is characterized by the complete lack of sperms. About 3%- 10% of male infertility cases are caused due to azoospermia. Natural pregnancy cannot be possible in the case of azoospermia due to the absence of sperm. There are two types of azoospermia, depending on the cause: 

  • Secretory or Non-Obstructive Azoospermia (When the testis is incapable of producing sperm)
  • Obstructive Azoospermia (Due to ejaculatory duct obstruction, sperms are produced but cannot be released with the ejaculate). 5

Implication:

To begin treatment, it is necessary to determine the type of azoospermia. Furthermore, it should be mentioned that some cases of azoospermia have no cure and, therefore, no sperm can be obtained. Generally, azoospermia is treated with a variety of natural, hormonal and surgical methods (depending on the cause). Recent advancements in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) are allowing a growing number of patients to have options. M-TESE followed by ICSI would be the preferred technique in case of ART option. Azoospermia 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.6


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. 


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. 8


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.7


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. 7, 8

 

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.8


7. Choose The Right Clothing:

Men who wear heat retaining clothes experience decreased sperm production 7. As per studies wearing brief underwear may decrease sperm quality.8


8. Manage Your Stress: 

Many stress-reducing techniques like Meditation, Yoga, Music, Therapies etc., can effectively keep stress at bay.9

 

How Can You Check Sperm Count? 


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://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22491033/   
  3. https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/354208  
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/low-sperm-count/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374591  
  5. https://www.invitra.com/en/azoospermia/  
  6. https://www.reproductivefacts.org/globalassets/asrm/asrm-content/news-and-publications/practice-guidelines/for-non-members/smoking_and_infertility.pdf  
  7. https://www.reproductivefacts.org/globalassets/asrm/asrm-content/learning--resources/patient-resources/protect-your-fertility3/asrm_brochure.pdf 
  8. https://www.reproductivefacts.org/news-and-publications/patient-fact-sheets-and-booklets/documents/fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/optimizing-male-fertility/  
  9. https://www.reproductivefacts.org/globalassets/rf/news-and-publications/bookletsfact-sheets/english-fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/stress_and_infertility_factsheet.pdf 

 

References