A low sperm count is one of the most common causes of male infertility
Contrary to popular belief, male infertility is just as common as fertility issues in women. When a couple is struggling to conceive due to male factor infertility, a low sperm count is often the cause. This means that the fluid a man ejaculates (semen) contains fewer sperm than normal. A normal sperm count is at least 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen. A sperm count under this number can make it more difficult for the sperm to fertilize an egg. However, that doesn’t mean pregnancy is impossible.
Texas Fertility Center (TFC) is home to Susan Hudson MD, a New Braunfels fertility doctor who understands male infertility. She provides education, diagnosis and treatment to help patients facing a low count.
What are the symptoms and causes of a low sperm count?
Many men don’t have any signs or symptoms of a low count. In fact, they may only discover it after struggling to conceive and undergoing a semen analysis. However, other men may notice signs that hint at this male fertility issue. Some examples may include a low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, or testicular swelling or pain.
As for the causes of a low sperm count, it can be due to medical, environmental or lifestyle causes.
- Damaged or blocked tubes that carry the sperm
- Hormonal imbalances
- Varicocele, or swelling in the veins that drain the testicles
- Undescended testicles
- Certain medications, including steroids, testosterone replacement and chemotherapy
- Chromosomal issues or illnesses like celiac disease
- Previous injuries or surgeries in the testicular area
- Problems with ejaculation, such as retrograde ejaculation
- Infections that interfere with sperm production or cause scarring in the reproductive tract
- Industrial chemicals, such as lead, pesticides and certain paints
- Heavy metal exposure
- Radiation or X-rays
- Overheating the testicles
- Prolonged sitting
- Drug use, including anabolic steroids, cocaine and marijuana
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Tobacco usage
- Uncontrolled emotional stress
- Being overweight or obese
Additionally, a man can have a low count if he provides a sample too soon after his last ejaculation or if he spills some of the semen during the collection. As a result, our New Braunfels fertility doctor will often order more than one semen analysis, spread out over time, to confirm the results.
How does Dr. Hudson diagnose and treat this male fertility issue?
When a couple first visits Dr. Hudson, she will take a medical history from both partners. She will also order bloodwork and a transvaginal ultrasound for the woman and a semen analysis for the man.
The semen analysis will require the man to provide a semen sample. Typically, he will do so by ejaculating into a sterile collection cup from our office. However, some patients, due to religious or cultural beliefs, may collect the sample using a special condom. Our andrologists will then examine the sample under a microscope to determine how many sperm are present.
If the results reveal a low sperm count, our New Braunfels fertility doctor can work with the couple to make treatment recommendations or make a referral to a local urologist.
- If a man has a varicocele or an obstruction, surgery may be necessary to repair it.
- In the case of erectile dysfunction, medication and counseling can help.
- If abnormal hormone levels are the issue, hormonal medication can be a solution.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) can also help couples conceive in many cases. Some of the most-popular options include intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). If these fertility treatments don’t work for a couple, then Dr. Hudson may recommend considering donor sperm to conceive.
If you’re ready to learn more about how the TFC team can help you overcome a low sperm count, contact us to schedule an appointment. Dr. Hudson is here to guide you on the path to parenthood.