According to Dr. Paul Matovu of St. Francis Hospital, Naggalama, more men are responsible for childlessness in marriages than they are willing to admit or take responsibility.
But then this is no surprise. According to Live Science, an online magazine, scientists and fertility doctors are noticing a rather consistent and worldspread drop in sperm count and sperm motility (sperm movement), which make it harder for couples to have babies.
A male is said to have a low sperm count when the semen ejaculated during an orgasm is fewer than 15 million per milliliter of semen. A low sperm count in male shrinks the possibility of fertilizing the female’s egg, although it does not mean one cannot become a father. That said, there’s also a complete lack of sperm in the semen. It is called azoospermia and one cannot expect to sire an offspring with this condition.
World Health Organization, WHO says that the total volume of semen should be more than 2 ml to be considered normal and the sperm concentration should be more than 20 million per milliliter of semen. This basically translates into the fact that the semen sample taken for analysis should contain at least 40 million sperms. However, the semen of all men includes some sperm cells which are dead or abnormally shaped and it is perfectly normal. In spite of this, the percentage of dead sperm or abnormally-shaped sperm should not be more than normal.
Motility is another factor which is used in the measurement of a normal sperm count. The WHO states that at least 25 percent of the sperm should be swimming with a rapid movement. Whether rapid or sluggish, at least 50 percent of the sperm should be swimming in a forward direction.
Often the cause of low sperm count isn’t easily identifiable but there are various likely factors that can affect your sperm count measurement. Dr.Matovu, explains that these could be medical, environmental, health, lifestyle and other causes.
Infection. Some infections can interfere with sperm production or sperm health or can cause scarring that blocks the passage of sperm. These include inflammation of the epididymis or testicles and some sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea or HIV. Although some infections can result in permanent testicular damage, most often sperm can still be retrieved.
Anti-sperm antibodies: These are immune system cells that may mistake sperms as harmful in the body and thus try to destroy them.
Cancer or tumors: These conditions can affect the male reproductive organs directly or indirectly by affecting the reproductive hormonal glands.
Hormone imbalances: Alteration of the hormones that create sperms can also reduce sperm production.
Sperm duct problems: Damage, injury, and blockage in the epididymis (part of the testicle that stores sperm) or blockage of the tubes carrying sperms out of the testicles (vas deferens) maybe the cause of lower-than-normal sperm count.
Inherited disorders: Some people are born with some inherited disorders, such as chromosomal defects, which lead to abnormal development of the male reproductive organs.
Prescribed medications: Some medications like testosterone replacement therapy, chemotherapy and long term use of steroids may negatively affect male fertility.
Other causes may include Malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies – deficiency of some nutrients (for example Zinc, Selenium, vitamin C, etc.) may also lead to low sperm count.
Overheating – excessive heat from saunas, hot tubs, etc. may decrease sperm production and lower sperm count.
Smoking, Drugs like cocaine, heavy marijuana, excessive alcohol consumption and prescribed medications.
Exposure to radiation such as X-rays, heavy metals and toxins or chemicals like herbicides, pesticides, can reduce sperm count either by affecting testicular function directly or by affecting the hormone system.
Obesity, stress and excessive physical or mental exertion can cause some hormonal changes in the body that can affect sperm count and fertility.
It is also widely believed that bicycling may cause blood vessels and nerves to be damaged due to the pressure from the bike seat yet injuries and diseases that affect the testicles may affect sperm production and cause low sperm count.
Occupation. Certain occupations might be linked with a risk of infertility, including welding or those associated with prolonged sitting, such as truck driving.
The main sign of low sperm count is the inability to conceive a child. There might be no other obvious signs or symptoms. In some cases, an underlying problem such as an inherited chromosomal abnormality, a hormonal imbalance, dilated testicular veins or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm may cause signs and symptoms. These might include;
Problems with sexual function — for example, low sex drive or difficulty maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)
Pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area
Decreased facial or body hair or other signs of a chromosome or hormone abnormality
When Symptoms Persist
See a doctor if you have been unable to conceive a child after a year of regular, unprotected intercourse or sooner if you have any of the following:
Erection or ejaculation problems, low sex drive, or other problems with sexual function.
Pain, discomfort, a lump or swelling in the testicle area.
A history of testicle, prostate or sexual problems.
Groin, testicle, penis or scrotum surgery.
In rare cases, male fertility problems can’t be treated, and it’s almost impossible for a man not to father a child – considering the present day technological discoveries in medicine.
Treating infections. Antibiotics can cure an infection of the reproductive tract, but this doesn’t always restore fertility.
Treatments for sexual intercourse problems; Medication or counseling can help improve fertility in conditions such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.
Hormone treatments and medications; your doctor might recommend hormone replacement or medications in cases where infertility is caused by high or low levels of certain hormones or problems with the way the body uses hormones.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART); ART treatments involve obtaining sperm through normal ejaculation, surgical extraction or from donor individuals, depending on your specific case and wishes. The sperm are then inserted into the female genital tract, or used for in vitro fertilization or intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
Surgery. Prior vasectomies can be reversed. And in cases where no sperm are present in the ejaculate, sperm can often be retrieved directly from the testicles or epididymis using sperm retrieval techniques.
It is however more important to switch to a healthier, balanced diet, rich in vegetables and whole grains.
Exercise regularly, try to reduce stress, keep weight off; if you are overweight, lose the excess weight, don’t smoke, reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption, avoid tight underwear, saunas, hot tubs and anything else that may increase the temperature of the testicles.
Maintaining a healthy weight, sticking to a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and illegal drugs can all help you get your sperm count back to norm. Add to this healthy lifestyle the proper blend of herbs, vitamins and minerals and you will be able not only to increase your sperm count but also improve sperm quality and motility.
Low sperm count is one of the factors that are considered to reduce the chances of making a baby. So are motility and shape of the sperm cells. Dr. Matovu, however, insists that this is no guarantee of anything. Even men with low sperm count are able to get a woman pregnant without any efforts whereas others with normal sperm count sometimes end up trying for much longer.
Besides, there are many other factors that may be playing a role here such as timing of sex and your woman’s age.