etting Pregnant and Sperm Health: Oligospermia

One common sperm health problem that can reduce a couple’s chances of getting pregnant is oligospermia, or low sperm count. This type of male fertility problem can be caused by a variety of different factors that range from environmental to lifestyle factors; however, oligospermia can often successfully be treated so that couples can increase their chances of getting pregnant.

What is Oligospermia?

Oligospermia is the leading cause of male fertility problems. A normal sperm count is 20 million or more per millimetre of semen. In order for conception to occur, a minimum of 60% of these sperm should have a normal shape (morphology) and normal forward movement (motility).

However, the above sperm count figure represents a general guideline, as some men with a higher sperm count have had difficulty conceiving while men with a sperm count lower than this number have been able to successfully get their partners pregnant.

Causes of Oligospermia

There are a variety of causes of oligospermia. The most common identifiable cause of low sperm count is varicoceles, a condition in which the veins in the scrotum become dilated. Varicoceles affects 15% of all men and 40% of men experiencing infertility. This condition is believed to heat up the testicles, reducing sperm count.

In addition, lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol and drug abuse can also impact a man’s sperm level.

Environmental factors, such as exposure to herbicides and pesticides, can also cause oligospermia, as these toxins have been linked to the overheating of the testicles, as have such practices as wearing tight underwear and using a hot tub.

Oligospermia has also been linked to a man’s weight. Being either overweight or underweight can influence sperm count; however, weight has not been shown to affect either the motility or shape of sperm. Being underweight is believed to affect sperm because it is linked to hormonal imbalances, as well as malnutrition.

Being overweight on the other hand can cause oligospermia because excess fat causes the male hormone testosterone to be converted into estrogen, which minimizes the stimulation of the testicles. A recent study found that testosterone levels in obese men were lower than those of men considered to be a normal weight.


Fertility testing is the best option for determining whether or not sperm count is low.

A medical evaluation will be performed, which will include a semen analysis test as well as a physical examination.

Oligospermia Treatment

You should seek treatment if you and your partner have been unsuccessful in getting pregnant for a year or more.

There are a variety of treatment options available to men with low sperm count.

If varicoceles is the cause of low sperm count, surgery will be performed so as to block the dilated vessels in order to re-route blood flow. This surgical procedure is successful two-thirds of the time.

Hormonal imbalances can be treated via drug therapy while lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet will also be prescribed, as will quitting smoking and drug use and minimizing alcohol consumption.

In some cases, assisted reproduction methods, such as surgical sperm retrieval, will be performed in order to improve the chances of conception.

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