We live in a time where fertility issues are becoming more and more pronounced. According to one study, 8-12% of couples around the world suffer from infertility, in one way or another. And another study, reported by The Guardian, and conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem shows that “sperm counts among men in the west have more than halved in the past 40 years and are currently falling by an average of 1.4% a year.” If you are among these men who suffer from low sperm counts, it’s only natural that some of you will ask the question: how to increase sperm count?
And that’s precisely what I want to talk about in this article. I want to tell you the main reasons behind your low sperm count, as well as the potential ways you can counter them. So, buckle up friends, and stay with me throughout these next paragraphs.
The first thing you need to know if either you or your wife are having fertility issues is that it’s not the end of the world. You also need to know that you’re not alone in this. As you can see from the statistics above, infertility is, unfortunately, becoming more and more common among couples worldwide.
And even though there are some types of infertility that you can’t always treat, still, science is getting better at this from day to day, and nowadays there are lots of treatments for infertility that you can use. As you can see in this article, there are also ways you can increase sperm count by yourself.
What are the causes of infertility?
Both men and women can be infertile. Here I’ll talk only about male infertility – more precisely, about low sperm count, and the ways you can improve it.
As with any other bodily system, fertility also largely depends on a range of health factors. Your lifestyle, how much you exercise, your diet can all be a part of it. Also, any hormonal imbalance and other physical conditions you might or might not be aware of can contribute to male infertility. It also depends on a range of other factors that may not be in your immediate control, such as genetics or the outside environment (pollution, etc.).
Is male infertility due to only low sperm counts?
The short answer is – no. Firstly, having a low sperm count doesn’t automatically mean that you’re infertile, although it does lower the chances of getting your partner pregnant.
Infertility is sometimes connected to semen quality and other times to sexual function or certain diseases, and lifestyle factors:
- ED or erectile dysfunction – or impotence can also be a cause for male infertility related to sexual function, especially if the man continuously and for a longer amount of time can’t have an erection, can’t sustain one, and can’t achieve an orgasm and ejaculate. There are ways to tackle ED and improve your sexual function. One of them is dealing with the stress in your life. Another way is to start working out and paying attention to your diet.
- Low sex drive (low libido) – not wanting or not feeling a desire to have sex can be another issue connected to male infertility. Natural viagra or natural aphrodisiacs can sometimes offer a solution or at least an improvement to this problem.
- Testosterone levels in your body – low levels of testosterone (also called hypogonadism) can cause infertility in men. If you’re experiencing this issue, it’s best to talk to your doctor and see how you can treat it best, instead of taking testosterone supplements on your own.
- Sperm motility – Sperm moves and once released, it swims towards the egg cell. Male infertility sometimes also depends on how much their sperm can move. Sperm motility is measured by the percent. A sperm sample is taken with moving sperm cells, and sperm motility is determined by the percentage of moving sperm cells.
- Sperm count – sperm count is another important factor in male infertility. Semen quality and semen count are determined by a number that tells the concentration of sperm cells in a semen sample.
What are the most common reasons why men have low sperm counts?
And now we’ve come to one of the more important questions of this article. Before I begin to tell you the ways you can increase sperm count, I want to briefly list the causes behind men’s low sperm counts.
Varicocele (which has quite an unfriendly name, to begin with) is a condition in which the veins that are responsible for draining the testicles swell for some reason. The good news about it is that it’s reversible, and it’s not uncommon.
Why varicocele causes male infertility is not exactly known, but it’s thought to be connected with abnormal temperature regulation of the testicles. And this, in turn, affects the quality of the sperm and reduces its count.
Some types of infections can also affect the production and health of the sperm. In some cases, they also cause scarring that blocks the way of sperm. Usually, these infections are inflammation of the epididymis (called epididymitis) or inflammation of the testicles (called orchitis). They can also be due to certain STDs, such as gonorrhea and HIV.
Sometimes these infections cause lasting damage to the testicles and the quality of the sperm, but oftentimes this can be reversed.
Problems with ejaculation
Ejaculation problems might also be the cause of infertility in men. A thing called ‘retrograde ejaculation’, for example, can happen when the semen goes into the bladder instead of ejaculating during an orgasm. Health conditions like diabetes, bladder, urethra, or prostate surgery, as well as injuries to the spine, can all cause ejaculation problems.
Medications can also cause problems with ejaculation. For example, medications for blood pressure, aka ‘alpha blockers’ can interfere with the way you ejaculate.
Ejaculation issues can often be treated and reversed. And even in more serious cases, you can still opt to retrieve sperm right from the testicles, if there’s no other solution that can be done.
Tumors and cancer
The presence of cancer and tumors (even non-malignant ones) can affect a man’s reproductive system in various ways, some of which are less known. Often this is done through the glands and the hormones they release that have to do with regulating our reproductive system, like, for example, the pituitary gland (also known as the hypophysis) found in the brain.
There are various ways to treat tumors and cancer. Surgery is one of them, and then there’s also the option of radiation and chemotherapy, as well as various oral therapies prescribed by a doctor. The problem is, the most common therapies for cancer, like surgery and chemotherapy can also negatively affect a man’s fertility.
This condition occurs very early in the formation of the fetus. It happens when one or both of the testicles don’t descend from the stomach towards the scrotum (aka the sack that holds them together).
Men who have this condition usually have lower fertility rates.
Also, sometimes the undescended testicle might not perform its function at all. It might be a dead tissue, or abnormal and underdeveloped.
Hormone imbalance can cause a range of negative effects on the body, as well as on the sexual performance and the sex drive in men.
Several organs and body parts such as the testicles, the thyroid gland, the adrenal gland, as well as the pituitary gland, and the hypothalamus are responsible for producing hormones, which in turn regulate our sex drive and performance of our reproductive organs. Imbalances and changes in their function will affect the production of hormones as well, which may result in a temporary or more long-term hormonal imbalance.
The good news is hormonal imbalance is often treatable nowadays. Of course, it’s best to talk to your doctor about which route of therapy is best to take and to see which part of your body requires the most attention.
Transporting sperm tubules and their defects
Lots of different tubules in our reproductive system carry sperm. And since they’re pretty small, and there’s lots of stuff going inside them, these tubules can sometimes get blocked. As I said, the reasons can be many: accidental surgery injury, abnormal development, trauma to the tissue, infections, etc.
Sometimes the reason for infertility can be genetic. Some more serious genetic reasons for male infertility are Kallmann’s syndrome, Kartagener’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis, Klinefelter’s syndrome (when the person is born with XXY chromosomes), which in turn cause an atypical development in a man’s reproductive organs.
Celiac disease is a condition that affects the digestive system. While it’s usually characterized as an allergy or sensitivity to gluten, it has also been connected to male infertility and low sperm count.
You can often improve this by eating a gluten-free diet.
Some medications can interfere with your body’s ability to create sperm.
For example, this can happen if you’ve used anabolic steroids for a long time if you’ve undergone cancer therapy or TRT (testosterone replacement therapy). It may also have to do with taking some antibiotics, antifungal medicines as well as ulcer medicines.
Some types of surgeries can affect parts of your reproductive system and the way your body makes sperm.
Surgeries like vasectomy, or surgeries of the testicles and the scrotum, or surgeries having to do with the abdomen can be the culprits behind small sperm counts. Other surgeries that have to do with rectal or testicular cancer can also play a role.
Sometimes, you will need additional surgery to fix infertility and low sperm count from previous surgery (although not always).
6 Ways to Increase Sperm Count
Okay, so now that we saw the reasons behind low sperm numbers, I want to tell you how you can improve them.
1. Start Exercising!
Our lives are more and more sedentary as time goes by. Blame technology, blame your boss, blame yourself… The truth is, we’ve become slobs. And that, unfortunately, affects our sperm count as well.
Exercising can be beneficial for countless reasons. Among them is improving fertility rates in men.
If you exercise regularly you will likely boost the production of testosterone in your body, thus improving the sperm count. A 2012 study shows how men who practice regular exercising have “a healthier semen production”, as well as better hormone values and a better “hormonal environment”.
But, there’s another thing you should be wary about when it comes to exercising. Excessive sporting activities and body strain can also reduce the levels of testosterone in the blood, semen quality and can induce a low sperm count.
This shouldn’t stop you from exercising, though. Moving your body in different ways is always way better than being sedentary.
You should still prioritize exercising, and consult with your doctor if think too much of it may affect sperm quality.
2. Make Sure You Take Enough Vitamin C
Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is an essential vitamin, which means your body can’t produce it on its own. So you have to consume it either through food or certain supplements.
According to studies, taking enough vitamin C has proved to be beneficial for women’s fertility rates, as well as during pregnancy.
But what about men?
The same seems to be valid about men as well. A study conducted in Dubai showed how men (aged 25-35) taking “1,000 mg of vitamin C twice daily for a maximum of 2 months” showed a significant increase in sperm count, sperm morphology, and sperm motility.
This is to say – the taking of vitamin C had a beneficial effect on the overall sperm quality in the participants of the study.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that if you take a certain amount of vitamin C daily, that you’ll automatically increase your sperm count and improve your sperm quality. It still depends from person to person, and your decreased sperm count still might be due to other factors too.
3. Consider Taking Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another very important nutrient for the proper functioning of our bodies. It’s great for bone and muscle health, the immune system, and it’s also been connected to fertility, boosting testosterone levels, as well as sperm quality and sperm motility.
Vitamin D is produced through our skin when it’s being exposed to sunlight. However, people who can’t get exposed to sunlight or live in countries where there aren’t many sunny days might have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood. In that case, supplements may help you improve your levels of vitamin D.
4. Greatly Reduce Stress in Your Life
Stress is a silent killer. However grim that may sound, it’s not far from the truth. Stress suppresses the immune system and has been connected as the main factor or cofactor for many conditions and ailments, such as diabetes, ulcers, cancer, problems with the abdomen, as well as some psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, neuroses, etc.
And, of course, it can affect sex life in different ways too. It can cause ED (erectile dysfunction), it can lower libido and testosterone levels, and it can negatively affect fertility. Some experts think that the excess secretion of the cortisol hormone may play a role in why stress is such a nasty bedfellow.
This means only one thing – you have to relax! I know it sounds easy on paper (or in this case – the screen), but it just has to be done.
Find your groove and your favorite rituals for relaxing. Experiment with exercises and stick to the one that suits you best. Take some time off work, do the stuff you like: read, write, photograph, travel, spend some more time with your partner and with friends, meditate, spend more time in nature… There are countless ways you can reduce stress levels in your life.
And if you’re dealing with depression or anxiety, and you think it requires more serious assistance – both in terms of medicines and professionals – then by all means contact a therapist or your doctor and start with some kind of treatment. The earlier you do it, the better for everyone.
5. Stop Smoking
Yeah, smoking is bad for your sperm too. Besides taking the bad guy role in causing cardiovascular and lung disease, smoking can also decrease your chances of becoming a dad. What’s more, it may also contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Men who smoke can have a lower sperm quality and lower sperm counts, as well as a decreased sperm motility and a bigger number of sperm with an abnormal shape. Last but not least, smoking can also affect the ability of the sperm to fertilize your partner’s eggs.
There are a number of ways you can try and quit smoking, or greatly reduce how much you smoke. It’s a good idea to ask for local support – it can be your wife, your friends, or a community group dedicated to this issue. You can also work on your willpower a bit and focus on other things such as a better diet and a consistent exercise plan.
If quitting becomes too hard, don’t shy away from asking the help of a therapist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has shown to be successful in managing withdrawal symptoms and cravings in people who are trying to quit smoking.
6. Lower Your Alcohol Intake
As it turns out, alcohol isn’t something that only women should abstain from during conception and pregnancy. Yes, fellas, you have to quit it as well, and not only from sheer solidarity.
Alcohol use has been connected to poor sperm quality and development, and it’s shown to have “negative effects at all levels of the male reproductive system.” What’s more, it may bring about “altered neurological, behavioral and biochemical outcomes in subsequent generations.”
According to a 2018 study done on animals, and reported in The Conversation, “a single dose of ethanol into the stomach lining (equivalent to a human binge drinking) induces damage to the testis, damaging the cells essential for sperm formation.”
Another study looks at male rats in the course of ten weeks and sees how their sperm health and their overall fertility is affected by the administration of alcohol. The findings say how alcohol consumption reduces the concentration of sperm and also reduces sperm motility. Also, it reduced the ability for fertilizing the female rats. The final verdict? Well, the study concludes how “alcohol consumption is associated with a deterioration of sperm parameters which may be partially reversible upon alcohol consumption discontinuation.”
As you can see, some of these effects caused by alcohol can be reduced. Start by reducing your alcohol intake to only a couple of times a week, a glass or two. Also, just don’t binge, or do it as rare as possible. Not only is it bad for your reproductive health, but it’s also bad for your liver, your heart, and many other important organs in your body.
While infertility rates are on the rise, there’s no space to despair. You can still put your health in check and work on improving your sperm count.
Of course, there are many more ways you can increase sperm concentration and improve your overall reproductive health than I’ve mentioned here.
As with any other health issue, it’s best to discuss the details and potential routes of therapy with your doctor. That way you’ll have a professional medical guide with whom you can tailor your own path towards better sperm health and ultimately, towards becoming a dad.