If you and your partner are trying to conceive a baby, you may be looking for information about how to increase sperm count to improve your chances of getting pregnant. A healthy sperm count is necessary for fertility.
For pregnancy to occur, only one sperm and one egg are needed, so why does sperm count matter? In short, it increases the odds for a successful pregnancy. When a man ejaculates into a woman, the chances that one sperm will reach and implant itself into an egg increases if more sperm are in the semen.
Normal semen contains 40 million to 300 million sperm per milliliter. A low sperm count is considered to be anything between 10 and 20 million sperm per milliliter. Twenty million sperm per milliliter may be adequate for pregnancy if the sperm are healthy.
Read on to learn more about sperm count plus seven things you can do to improve sperm health.
1. Lose weight
Losing weight if you’re overweight is one of the single-most effective things you can do to increase sperm count. Studies have shown that weight loss can significantly increase semen volume, concentration, and mobility, as well as the overall health of sperm. The changes in sperm count have been found to be most significant in men who have a higher body mass index, so if you have a large amount of weight to lose, even losing a small amount of weight may help.
To accomplish your weight loss goals, talk to a doctor who can help you get started. You may want to schedule an appointment with a nutritionist to change any eating habits that could be improved. Working with a trainer or other exercise program can also help.
Even if you don’t need to lose weight, staying active and leading a healthy lifestyle can help boost your sperm count. One study found that weightlifting and outdoors exercise can help sperm health more than other types of exercise. Consider incorporating these kinds of activities into your routine. Exercise can also help you maintain or lose weight, which may have additional benefits for your sperm health.
3. Take your vitamins
Some types of vitamins, including vitamins D, C, E, and CoQ10, are important for sperm health.
One study showed that taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C every day can help men’s sperm concentration and mobility. The overall sperm count won’t improve, but the sperm can become more concentrated and able to move more efficiently. That can boost your chances of conceiving successfully.
Another study noted less successful rates of pregnancy among couples where the man had low levels of vitamin D. More research is needed to understand the relationship between this vitamin and fertility, but there does seem to be a correlation.
Talk to your doctor about testing your vitamin levels. They can do this using a simple blood test.
4. Avoid substance abuse
Low sperm counts and unhealthy sperm have been linked to people with a history of:
- heavy drinking, which is defined as drinking two or more alcoholic drinks per day
- tobacco use of any kind
- illegal drug use, including cocaine and anabolic steroids
If you use any of these substances and are having trouble quitting, talk to your doctor. They can recommend programs to help manage and treat addiction.
5. Check your environment
Consider changing your clothes and showering as soon as possible if you’ve been exposed to:
- paint strippers
- non-water based glues or paints
- other endocrine disruptors
Those toxins may affect sperm count. If you’re exposed to any of these things because of a hobby, consider putting your hobby on hold until after you’ve successfully conceived.
Jobs that expose you to excess heat or radiation, or even extreme sedentary work can also affect sperm count.
6. Have your bike checked
Biking might be related to low sperm count. Bicycling more than five hours per week is associated with lower sperm concentration. Having your bike checked for a proper fit can help.
7. Wear loose, cotton boxers
Keeping your sperm at an adequate temperature and allowing lots of air flow to the scrotum can help cultivate the right environment for healthy sperm. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing boxers, choose cotton briefs instead of synthetic ones. That will still help control air flow and temperature.
Sperm count isn’t the only thing that matters when trying to conceive. You also want to have overall healthy sperm.
A male’s reproductive health is defined by three aspects of sperm:
- the health of the individual sperm
- the amount or concentration of sperm
- the volume of the overall sperm
Some findings suggest that men’s sperm quality is declining. Doctors aren’t completely sure why that is happening, but lifestyle and nutrition may play a role.
Does sperm count affect IVF success?
Sperm count affects the use of reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), as well. Your success in using IVF with a low sperm count will depend on the health of your sperm and what factors are causing the low sperm count. The sperm can now be injected directly into the egg through a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection as an alternative if the man has a very low sperm count.
No matter how you are hoping to conceive, improving your sperm count can help improve your chances of a successful pregnancy.
When to see a doctor
The common advice given to couples trying to conceive is to see a doctor after one year of unprotected sex that does not result in pregnancy. If the female partner is over 35, see a doctor after six months of unprotected sex that does not result in a pregnancy.
If you have a known occupation, hobby, or medical condition that is linked to a lower sperm count, you should talk to a doctor as soon as possible before you begin trying to conceive. They can do tests to ensure that you’re healthy and conception is recommended.
If you’re having trouble conceiving, a fertility specialist will usually perform tests on both the man and woman. A woman will have her eggs, ovaries, and uterus tested. A man will provide a semen sample for a semen analysis and sperm count. The doctor will check the number of sperm per sample to determine if the sperm count is too low. An ultrasound may also be performed to look for problems in the scrotum, or ducts and tubes where the semen travels.
The success rate of achieving pregnancy with a low sperm count will vary based on your and your partner’s individual health. If you decide you want to have a family, there are many options available to you, such as pursuing adoption, exploring IVF, or making lifestyle changes to try to conceive. Your first step is talking with a doctor who can help assess sperm count and other fertility factors before making a plan for your future.
Q&A: Ejaculation frequency and sperm count
What conditions can affect sperm count?
There are many things that can affect a person’s sperm count, including congenital disorder-like hormonal changes. Other acquired diseases, such as mumps, can also have an effect. Illicit drugs, alcohol, certain toxins, smoking, and exposure to heavy metals like lead and mercury can all affect sperm production. Trauma or illnesses such as liver disease and kidney disease are factors as well. Fertility can be affected if there are problems with delivering the sperm from the testes. Problems anywhere along the tract from the testicles, including the epididymis, vas deferens, and prostate, can affect fertility. Retrograde ejaculation — when the ejaculate goes in the wrong direction — can decrease fertility, though not necessarily sperm count.Suzanne Falck MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.