Every Sperm Counts
If you have discovered that you are infertile, and that it's due to sperm count, it's certainly important to understand what this means. The leading cause of male infertility is low sperm count, so you're certainly not alone with this issue. There are many causes of low sperm count, some of which are biological and some environmental. Here we present the conditions that could lead to this problem.
Sperm count may be lowered by temporary overheating. This can occur from a high fever, from a sauna or hot Jacuzzi, or from working with a laptop on your lap for extensive periods of time. Continued exposure to overheating, such as you might experience at work, can even lead to extended fertility problems.
Substance Abuse & Smoking
If you use cocaine or heavy amounts of marijuana, this can reduce the number and quality of your sperm by as much as 50%! Marijuana impairs the sperm by hurting the sperm's ability to swim and by inhibiting its ability to penetrate the egg. Similarly, smoking also impairs sperm count. In addition, it hurts sperm motility, sperm lifespan and may even cause genetic changes that can affect the baby. Interestingly enough, a study in 1999 of male smokers found that those who smoke have lower sex drives and less frequent sexual activity.
While researchers don't have conclusive evidence that age creates a lower sperm count, they believe that there is a correlation. For men under the age of 39, fertilization rates are usually over 60%. For men over 39, the fertilization rates fall to slightly over 50%.
Both physical and emotional stresses inhibit sperm count. There are a number of situations that often create these stresses. Stress may interfere with the hormone GnRH, and this can reduce sperm count. Relationship problems, impotence and premature ejaculation can all contribute to infertility. Lubricants such as spermicides, oils, and Vaseline all affect fertility and limit the sperm count that gets to the egg as well.
Eating & Exercise
If you have low levels of vitamin C, selenium, zinc and folate, this may also put you at risk for low sperm count. It is certainly important to eat well and to have a routine physical done and blood taken to check for these deficiencies. At the same time, obesity has also been tied to low sperm count, so it is important to keep a balanced diet and a regular weight. While everyone will tell you that you should exercise, you need to be careful about what type of exercise you select. While bicycling is certainly good for your heart, it's not always great for your sperm. Bicycling has actually been linked to impotence in men and it can affect the sperm count. The pressure on the bike seat is thought to damage blood vessels and nerves that are needed for erections. Mountain biking, in particular, puts extra shock and vibrations on the perineum and increases the risk to the scrotum.
Good Old Genetics
We've all been influenced by our genetic make-up. Sperm count is no different. Certain genetic factors can inhibit sperm count, including such issues as cystic fibrosis, Klinefelter syndrome, and Kartagener syndrome. You should speak with your doctor if you have one of these issues or if you suspect that you might.
There are certain dangers in the environment, particularly in the work location, that can lead to low sperm count. These include exposure to toxins, chemicals and infections. Chronic exposure to heavy metals like lead, cadmium and arsenic can also affect sperm production. Finally, both radiation treatments and x-rays can be damaging to sperm count. It's possible that if you are exposed to significant levels of radiation, it can take up to two years to resume normal sperm production. In certain severe situations, the production may never return.
Certainly, it is important to talk to your doctor if you think that you've experienced any of these factors. You should try to avoid these situations, when possible, and change your lifestyle habits and your work environment if you are trying to conceive. Many issues of low sperm count can be dealt with by a fertility specialist. Don't despair, but do your research and get informed about low sperm count and what you can do about it.