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Male infertility: What causes low sperm count and how to improve sperm health?

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Nov 20, 2023 02:03 PM IST

Health experts reveal the list of factors that can impact sperm quality and share helpful suggestions on how to enhance sperm count and improve male fertility

Male infertility is becoming more common and accounts for around 30% of cases and for the uninitiated, a low sperm count occurs when there are fewer sperm than usual in the semen (ejaculating fluid). This medical condition is known as oligospermia, whereas a total lack of sperm is referred to as azoospermia.

Causes of low sperm count:

Male infertility: What causes low sperm count and how to improve sperm health? (Shutterstock)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Manu Gupta, Senior Consultant Urology and Andrology at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and First Step IVF Clinic, Delhi, “Low sperm counts are directly linked to male infertility and can arise from a variety of different reasons. Sperm quality can be impacted by factors such as obesity, stress, bad eating habits, drug and alcohol use, smoking, testicular trauma, chemotherapy, and medical issues.”

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According to Dr Giriraja Velayutham, Consultant Urologist at SPARSH Hospital in Bangalore, following are the causes of low sperm count in men -

1. Lifestyle Factors: Certain lifestyle choices can negatively impact sperm count. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, and an unhealthy diet can all contribute to low sperm count.

2. Medical Conditions: Various medical conditions can affect sperm production. These include infections, hormonal imbalances, and genetic conditions like Klinefelter syndrome.

3. Varicocele: A varicocele is a swelling of the veins that drain the testicle. It's a common reversible cause of male infertility.

4. Environmental Factors: Exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals, and radiation can harm sperm production.

5. Heat: High temperatures around the testicles (e.g., from hot baths or saunas, tight clothing) can reduce sperm production.

6. Medicine overdose: Medicine overdose or excessive intake can affect sperm production as well.

Tips to improve sperm health:

Dr Manu Gupta offered some helpful suggestions on how to enhance sperm counts and improve male fertility and recommended -

  • Give up smoking, drinking and engaging in drugs: If you smoke, give it up as soon as you can. Tobacco smoking is the main cause of weak or irregular sperm, poor motility in sperm, and genetic chromosomal damage. In addition to lowering testosterone levels, heavy drinking can impair a person's ability to have sex. Additionally, drug usage lowers sperm counts.
  • Avoid long hot baths and saunas - Sperm are negatively impacted by heat; therefore avoid hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms, and lengthy hot baths. They have the ability to raise body temperature and decrease sperm count and quality. Additionally, avoid using the laptop while seated on your lap.
  • When working out, try not to overdo it: Too much and heavy exercise might lower testosterone levels and sperm quality. Exercise should be light and have no influence on your testosterone or sperm levels. Refrain from exercising excessively because excess of any kind is harmful.
  • Avoid wearing excessively tight clothing: Steer clear of tight clothing that could raise testicular temperature and impede sperm production.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: If you are significantly overweight or underweight, your body may produce more or less of the hormones that can affect sperm growth and development. Therefore, maintain a healthy weight by doing yoga, working out, and eating wisely.

Dr Manu Gupta added, “While sperm counts can be raised by implementing these recommendations, low sperm counts may be due to medical reasons. Seek advice from a fertility doctor and andrologist to identify the root of your issue. It is now achievable for couples to have a biological child, thanks to technological breakthroughs in medicine and cutting-edge procedures like Micro Dissection Testicular Sperm Extraction (Micro TESE), Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA), and Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA). Therefore, speak with a fertility professional who can help you choose a course of treatment based on the reason for your infertility.”

To improve sperm health and increase sperm count, Dr Giriraja Velayutham advised the following precautions to be taken -

1. Diet: A balanced diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants and minerals can benefit sperm health. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts are good choices.

2. Exercise: Regular physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight and improve overall reproductive health.

3. Avoid Toxins: Minimise exposure to environmental toxins, such as avoiding smoking, and excessive alcohol, and reducing exposure to pesticides or industrial chemicals.

4. Manage Stress: Chronic stress can affect hormone levels, potentially impacting sperm production. Stress-reduction techniques like meditation or yoga may help.

5. Medical Treatment: If a medical condition is the cause, seek treatment from a healthcare professional. For example, hormonal imbalances can often be corrected with medication.

6. Lifestyle Changes: Wearing loose-fitting underwear, avoiding hot baths, and reducing laptop or mobile phone use on the lap can help maintain a cooler environment for the testicles.

7. Supplements: Some supplements, like zinc and folic acid, may benefit sperm health, but their effectiveness can vary.

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