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In recent times the problem of low sperm count and poor motility have become so prevalent, and have led to unhappy homes and unfulfilled hopes seemingly due to a myriad of often-ignored factors like environmental toxins; lifestyle factors etc. which have all otherwise enormously affected fertility in men, and their inability to get a woman pregnant.
According to WHO, in other for a couple to achieve a healthy pregnancy the male partner’s sperm will have to satisfy the data below:
–Normal sperm count > 20 million sperm cells/mL
–Sperm motility > 50%
–Morphology (size and shape) of about 30%
The female partner also on her part must “ovulate” a healthy egg (ovum) from either of her ovaries in a copulation-timely fashion, for fertilization and conception to be achieved.
Ideally abnormalities of the male spermatozoa could be described under the following headings:
-Oligospermia (low sperm count): This accounts for about 10 -15% cases of male factor infertility.
-Asthenospermia (poor sperm motility): This is often associated with DNA fragmentation and increase the risk of transferring a genetic disease.
-Teratospermia (abnormal sperm morphology): This refers to the shape and structure of the sperm.
The above sperm abnormalities can morbidly hinder a couple’s efforts at getting pregnant, hence early diagnosis usually will save you a lot of time, so you can seek the right solution.
Sadly, a lot of men especially in this part of the world are reluctant, and exhibit pride towards undergoing a sperm health checkup (seminal fluid analysis) in other to pinpoint a predisposing infertility problem. This attitude however, is changing as health education continues to reach out on the web.
12 Common Risk Factors Associated With Low Sperm Count/Male Infertility:
Like I earlier said, the problem of male infertility and low sperm count became prevalent as a result of our changing lifestyle, environmental degradation amongst others.
“A recent report by Dr. Cecil Jacobson of Reproductive Genetic Center, Vienna, Virginia USA stated that sperm count has not declined over the past 4 decades. The study used dates of 1951 for the first comparison study. 1951 was well after the introduction of large amounts of chemicals into society and was a year in which vehicle emissions contained both high levels of lead and large amounts of toxic hydrocarbon and solvent combustion products. Also, by 1951 pesticides use was making its way into consumer use.”
The following are the leading risk factors of Low Sperm Count in the tropics:
Smoking lowers a couple’s chances of conception up to 20%, according findings, by reducing the male sperm production and also damaging the DNA structure (genetic material) of the sperm. Smoking also can affect sperm quality and overall male fertility health, hindering conception.
Recreational drugs like cocaine, marijuana can temporarily reduce sperm count and quality, affecting a couple’s chance of conception greatly by hindering the testicular capacity to create adequate sperm. And the use of anabolic steroids have also been linked to low sperm production.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs):
Bacterial organisms like Chlamydia Trachomatis and Gonorrhea are the commonest known causes of infertility related infections in men, even in sexually active women. This group of microorganisms in men spread to the testis and epididymis (a tube that conveys sperm from the testicles) hindering the passage of sperm due to blockage caused by inflammation as a result of the ensuing infection.
Occupational or prolonged exposure to toxins and chemicals (eg; pesticides, herbicides, insecticides etc) are otherwise identified as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC) by environmental toxicologists. Studies have shown that the above chemicals reduce sperm production in male by hindering the function of testosterone (male hormone) that creates new sperm.
Physical or Mental Stress:
Stress has been linked to reduction in sperm production in male, as a result of hormonal imbalance created by stress hormones in the body (cortisol and adrenaline), and indirectly affecting the function of testosterone.
Overheating the Testicles:
The testicles (or testis) anatomically is located outside the body. By the Creator’s design, this is an indication that sperm production requires a subnormal body temperature (<37 C) for formation. And so, using hot bath tubs, wearing tight silk boxers; prolonged placing of laptops on your thighs could potentially reduce the counts of your swimmers thereby affecting your chances of getting your partner pregnant.
Obesity could affect your fertility health negatively by creating hormonal imbalance in your physiology, reducing your testosterone level and subsequently affecting sperm production. Maintaining an optimum BMI within 20 – 24 kg/m2 (body mass index) is ideal when preparing for conception.
In recent times, some comparative studies have revealed that cycling for a long time (more than 5 hours per week) can affect sperm quality and lower a man’s odds at getting a woman pregnant. It is believed that pressure from the bike’s seat could potentially injure blood vessels and nerves responsible for erection in the perineum (a region between the anus and genitals). And so, the male partner is advised against cycling when actively trying to get his partner pregnant.
Age has been associated with male infertility and low sperm production. As a man advances in age (70 – 80 years), the longer it will take him to get his partner pregnant, compared to when he is young and sexually active. Electromagnetic Field Radiation: There is growing evidence that excessive exposure to EMF radiation could affect male fertility and also reduce sperm count in the process. Hence, reducing your exposure to X-rays and use of mobile devices anywhere around your genitals is highly advocated.
Erectile dysfunction or weak erection in layman’s understanding is the inability of the joystick to maintain and sustain an erection necessary for penetration. Many men suffer from this sexual health dysfunction, and this has often been linked to reduced testosterone activity in men leading to low sperm production.
Varicocele: This condition is one of the commonest causes of infertility in men. It is characterized by abnormal enlargement and twisting of the veins that drain “de-oxygenated” blood from the testicles. Research shows that it affects 15 out of 100 men. Theoritically, varicocele impacts male fertility negatively by raising the temperature of the testicles, or through excessive pooling of blood in the vein carrying blood from the testicles resulting to reduced sperm production. How To Assess Your Overall Sperm Health —
Total Sperm Check-Up:
The standard laboratory test for analyzing sperm health medically is called Seminal Fluid Analysis. Here are the guidelines, steps and what to expect from your doctor or lab scientist during this evaluation procedure:
Step 1: You will be counseled and asked to abstain from sexual intercourse for a maximum of 3 days before the test is done, to ensure adequate collection of your semen.
Step 2: On the said third day: You will be mandated to either ejaculate into a sterile plastic container via masturbation or through Withdrawal Method with your partner, and hurriedly send the collection to the Lab within 30 minutes. I usually recommend the first option to avoid delays.
Step 3: Therein at the Lab your semen will be stored at a suitable temperature or analyzed at once, for findings. Ideally, this test should be repeated at least 3 times over several months. How To Prevent Low Sperm Count Condition –
What To Do: As long as you are concerned, preventing low sperm count condition primarily will require a disciplinary and proactive approach on your part. Hence, I strongly recommend you get an accountability partner, your woman preferably to help you stay focused and track your efforts and progress.
Here Are Things To Stay Clear Off:
-Aim to maintain an optimal Body Mass Index of <25kg/m2
-Abstain from alcohol
-Reduce exposure to environmental toxins, chemicals, heavy metals at your home and workplace
-Learn to manage stress
-Limit or avoid self-medication.
And always consult your healthcare provider for the right drug prescription. Free to comment or ask any related questions.
Author: Dr. Gilbert Nnaji