15 Ways To Increase Sperm Count
Everything you need to know about how to improve sperm count naturally.
If you have a low sperm count, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that global sperm counts have been declining for at least 30 years. Even more worryingly, motile sperm counts (the sperm most likely to reach the egg) declined 10% between 2003 and 2019.
Scientists believe the most likely reason for the global decline in healthy sperm is down to environmental toxicity. Endocrine disrupters like phthalates, plasticizers, and air pollution are all likely culprits. However, individual factors can play a role as well.
What is low sperm count?
Low sperm count is a type of male-factor infertility that refers to the concentration of sperm cells in a given amount of semen. Having a low sperm count (concentration) is not the same as having low sperm motility (quality). You can have a low sperm count but high sperm motility. However, your chances of getting pregnant are still reduced, even if you just have one or the other.
On average, normal semen contains between 40 million and 300 million sperm per milliliter. You have a low sperm count if that number dips below 20 million. However, you might still be able to conceive naturally around the 20-million mark if all the sperm are motile (healthy).
Low sperm count signs and symptoms
You could have a low sperm count if you haven’t conceived after a year of unprotected sex. However, here are a few other red flags:
- General sexual dysfunction, such as having a low sex drive or difficulty maintaining an erection
- Pain or swelling in the testicles
- A lump in the testicle area
- Decreased facial or body hair (or any other sign of potential chromosome or hormone dysfunction)
How to check sperm count
For an accurate sperm count analysis, make an appointment with your doctor. They will ask you to ejaculate into a specimen cup. The ejaculate will be analyzed for sperm count and other fertility factors. This is the main difference between a doctor’s test and at-home tests. At-home tests can evaluate sperm count, but are unable to tell you if other factors could be affecting your fertility.
What causes low sperm count?
Various factors can put you at more risk of having a low sperm count, from medical complications to your lifestyle and habits. Anyone with a history of the aforementioned symptoms, injuries, or genetic conditions related to the testicular area is at risk. Medical treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery on the testicles can inhibit sperm production. Brain surgery can also negatively impact your sperm count, since the brain produces the hormones responsible for stimulating sperm production.
Other causes and risk factors for a low sperm count include:
- Genetic conditions (or being a carrier for genetic conditions) like cystic fibrosis or Klinefelter syndrome
- Varicocele, or swelling in the veins that drain the testicles
- Previous or present infections or STIs
- Difficulty with erections or ejaculation
- Issues with the immune system
- Certain medications or treatments
- Overheating your testicles (such as repeatedly using a laptop on your lap)
- Occupational exposure to herbicides, pesticides, solvents, industrial chemicals or heavy metals
- Radiation exposure
- Drug use, such as marijuana or opioids
- Smoking or vaping
- Anabolic steroid usage
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Use of testosterone boosters or certain pre-workout supplements
- Spending too much time sitting, such as for work
- Emotional stressors, especially when they’re long-lasting
- Being overweight or obese
How to increase sperm count naturally
Weightlifting and outdoor exercise is beneficial to overall sperm health, even for those who don’t need to lose weight. Such activities can also help to de-stress, which can improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Get enough sleep
Getting a sufficient amount of uninterrupted sleep is crucial to overall health, so of course it factors into fertility. Studies have pointed to 7 to 8 hours as the sweet spot for an optimal sperm count. Those who were sleeping more or less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours had a significantly lower sperm count.
This should go without saying, since we know how damaging tobacco smoke is to the human body. As for specifics, smoking damages sperm DNA in addition to reducing their concentration. When sperm from a smoker results in pregnancy, there is an increased risk for developmental issues and miscarriage. Children of male smokers also have an increased risk of infertility themselves. So, if you’re a smoker thinking of starting a family, quit now.
Limit alcohol consumption
Drinking two or more alcoholic beverages per day has been linked to decreased testosterone production and lower sperm counts. If you’re trying to conceive, drink alcohol in moderation.
Avoid recreational drug use
Research on this subject is lacking, but some studies have linked marijuana, cocaine, and opioid use to lower sperm counts. It’s even been suggested that those with a history of drug use could have persistent low sperm counts. Consult your doctor if you think this could be a problem, or if you’re having trouble quitting.
Avoid certain prescription medications
Some prescription medications have been known to temporarily slow the development of healthy sperm. The good news is that normal development should resume once you’re off these medications. Speak with your doctor if you’re taking any of the following:
- Calcium channel blockers
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Exogenous or supplementary testosterone
One of the most common causes of infertility in men is stress. Research has shown that stress may release steroid hormones that decrease testosterone and limit sperm production. Eating healthily, exercising regularly, and spending time in nature are all great ways to combat stress to boost sperm production.
Spending time outside has proven to be beneficial to sperm quantity and quality. Why? Spending time in nature has been proven to decrease our cortisol (stress hormone) levels. It also allows you to soak up that vitamin D. Men with vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to low sperm counts, so head outside for a vitamin D boost.
Increase healthful fat intake
Polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6 are crucial for healthy sperm. Studies have found that men who took omega-3 supplements had much higher concentrations of motile sperm than men who didn’t. Consider trying an omega-3 supplement if you have difficulty adding it to your diet.
Eat more antioxidant-rich foods
Antioxidants are important molecules due to their role in breaking down free radicals (compounds that damage cells). For this reason, they’ve been correlated with increased sperm counts. You can add antioxidants like beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lutein to your diet through several vitamins, such as vitamin C.
Pay attention to your surroundings
We previously established that researchers suspect that environmental pollutants are a major contributor to the global decrease in sperm counts. It therefore goes without saying that those with excess exposure to environmental and occupation contaminants are even more at risk.
For example, those who live in highly industrialized areas have been found to have lower sperm counts on average. Exposure to pesticides, lead, and certain paints also poses an increased risk. If you work with occupational contaminants, remember to always wear protective gear and avoid contact with your skin.
Avoid soy and estrogen-rich foods
Estrogen (plant or synthetic) can reduce testosterone bonding, and therefore sperm concentration. Studies have shown that those who had diets consisting of estrogen-rich foods, such as soy and certain canned products, also had low sperm counts. Make sure to avoid these foods as much as possible when you’re trying to conceive.
Maintain a healthy BMI
BMI (body mass index) is one of the most influential factors in male fertility. Those who are overweight have significantly lower sperm quality and quantity than those with a healthy BMI. Research also indicates that losing weight can drastically improve sperm quantity and function. Speak to your doctor about what a healthy BMI looks like for you and make adjustments if needed.
Wear loose cotton underwear
Break out the boxers, boys. It sounds strange, but allowing air flow to your scrotum and blood flow through your testicles will help produce healthy sperm. If boxers really aren’t your thing, then opt for 100% cotton briefs to ensure adequate breathing room.
Keep it cool
You’ve swapped out your underwear for something more loose-fitting and breathable. Keep things even cooler down there by limiting time spent in hot tubs, baths, or saunas, standing to stretch throughout the day, and use your laptop on your desk—not your lap. A high scrotal temperature can hamper sperm production, so do what you can to avoid overheating.
Foods to increase sperm count
Supplements containing the right vitamins and minerals are a safe and simple way to ensure you’re getting your daily minimum. However, depending on your physiology, some people absorb the nutrients in supplements more readily than others. For those people, the best way to naturally increase their sperm count is to consume more foods containing sperm-friendly nutrients. These include:
- Fruits rich in vitamin C, like oranges
- Dark, leafy greens
- Fatty fish, like oysters
- Seeds rich in omega-3, like pumpkin, chia, and sunflower seeds
- Maca root
- Foods rich in vitamin D, like mushrooms and eggs
Supplements to increase sperm count
Even those who make big dietary changes might still have trouble getting all the vitamins and minerals they need. Incorporating supplements like the Fertility Support for Him Drink Mix is the most effective way to cover all your bases.
Here are some of the nutrients to look out for in a daily supplement or multivitamin:
- B-complex vitamins
- Coenzyme Q10
- Vitamins C and E
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- D-aspartic acid
Do testicular injuries decrease sperm count?
Unfortunately, they can. Even getting sacked once can cause problems, depending on the damage. If you suffer an injury and the pain lasts more than an hour, consult your doctor.
Does masturbation reduce sperm count?
Yes and no. Studies have found that your first ejaculate of the day will contain the highest concentration of sperm. So, if you’re having TTC (trying to conceive) sex, it’ll serve you best not to ejaculate beforehand.
However, the studies indicated that the sperm quality remained consistent regardless of how many ejaculations occurred that day. They also demonstrated that ejaculation can occur daily without negatively impacting sperm count.
Can you get pregnant with low sperm count?
Yes, though the odds that one of your sperm fertilizes the egg are decreased.
Does low testosterone mean low sperm count?
Not necessarily. Low testosterone can be a factor in male infertility, but sperm production is mainly stimulated by other hormones. Someone with low testosterone can still have a healthy or normal sperm count. Consult your doctor if you’re concerned that you might have a correlation.