Low sperm count means that the fluid (semen) you ejaculate during an orgasm contains fewer sperm than normal.
A low sperm count is also called oligospermia (ol-ih-go-SPUR-me-uh). A complete absence of sperm is called azoospermia. Your sperm count is considered lower than normal if you have fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen.
Having a low sperm count decreases the odds that one of your sperm will fertilize your partner's egg, resulting in pregnancy. Nonetheless, many men who have a low sperm count are still able to father a child.
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 men, 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.
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:
The production of sperm is a complex process and requires normal functioning of the testicles (testes) as well as the hypothalamus and pituitary glands — organs in your brain that produce hormones that trigger sperm production. Once sperm are produced in the testicles, delicate tubes transport them until they mix with semen and are ejaculated out of the penis. Problems with any of these systems can affect sperm production.
Low sperm count can be caused by a number of health issues and medical treatments. Some of these include:
Sperm production or function can be affected by overexposure to certain environmental elements, including:
A number of risk factors are linked to low sperm count and other problems that can cause low sperm count. They include:
To protect your fertility, avoid known factors that can affect sperm count and quality. For example: