How to increase sperm count?
17th June 2019
Let’s be honest, sperm count isn’t really a topic many men talk about too regularly. When my wife Lina and I started trying to conceive I never even thought about the health of my sperm. I’ll admit, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as sperm health!
Fast forward several years later — after a still birth and a miscarriage plus struggling to conceive — I had a lot of questions. That’s when I started learning all about sperm health and just how much of a difference it can make in a couple’s fertility journey and ability to conceive. I read books, met fertility experts, and explored various products that purported to help improve health from random herbs to lifestyle changes. I also learned about the link between sperm health and miscarriage and the largely unspoken role that men play in both the ablity to conceive as well as early pregnancy health.
Through my journey I found answers to a lot of my questions so I wanted to share some here to help others navigate this learning easier.
Can sperm count be increased?
The short answer here is “yes” you can increase sperm count. First though it’s good to have an overview of what’s going on. An interesting little fact is that you are producing sperm every day — in fact several million per day or about 1,500 per second! The next question you might ask is – so how often does my sperm regenerate? This is where it’s even more interesting. There is a specific cycle to sperm regeneration that lasts around 64 days — so every 64 days you are producing a new “batch” of sperm as it were. This cycle is called spermatogenesis and it covers the complete cycle of sperm production and maturation. By the end of a full cycle you may produce over 8 billion semen!
When you get your sperm tested you give a sample — basically you have to ejaculate into a cup. A “normal” sperm count for one of these sperm tests is between 40 million to 300 million per milliliter (ml).
So this sperm regeneration cycle for men is very different from women. Women are born with a certain number of eggs and this simply declines, though at varying rates, with age. Men on the other hand are always producing more sperm and actually the volume that is produced in these cycles can vary — and be influenced by choices you make.
How do I test my sperm count?
As I mentioned above to test your sperm you’ll need to provide a sample – which means you need to ejaculate into a cup. I’ve gotta say this is a pretty weird experience and one I don’t think I’ll go into much here for obvious reasons! But typically you go to a clinic, a nurse shows you to a room, and then you’ve got some time to make it happen. Given how much semen volume can vary you may even be asked to provide a couple of samples.
You then provide this sample to the lab, which will examine it and provide you with your sperm count.
How can I check it at home?
I wouldn’t blame you if the thought of going to a clinic to ejaculate doesn’t sound too attractive. There is some really interesting innovation in this space with new solutions that enable you to check your sperm at home. These testing solutions go through generally the same process as above of course. However, it’s really important to be careful with these tests and ensure the quality and accuracy of the solution you use. You also have to make sure you follow instructions closely! Sperm samples are actually only valid for a short period of time so you actually have to do the test right away. Also the unfortuante reality is that these at home tests haven’t quite gotten up to the same quality as those done in the lab and. So buyer beware that:
- although research by the manufacturers suggests these tests can give an accurate indication of sperm count, they haven’t been extensively studied
- some home-testing kits classify a low sperm count as under 20 million sperm per millilitre of semen, but more recent international guidelines state that anything above 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen is normal
- some kits only check the number of sperm, not other things that can affect fertility such as how well the sperm are able to move (motility) and sperm shape (morphology), only normal shaped sperms can fertilise an egg and they need to be able to swim up to meet the egg. it’s best to use a kit that measures all these things.
So while these at home tests are really great for learning, quenching some curiosity, and giving you a general understanding of where you’re at — it’s still best to go with a visit to the clinic to get this job done right.
How do I know if my sperm is healthy?
However, it’s important to not just focus on the sperm count. That is not the whole story. Men may still experience infertility challenges even if the male has a high sperm count. So there are a few other areas that tests look for and are important to pay attention to:
- Liquefaction: This is how semen change a gel to a liquid state in order to travel to fertilize the egg.
- Morphology: Size and shape also matter a lot. I was surprised to find out that a lot of sperm are actually malformed. The higher the percentage of defects the higher likelihood of infertility.
- Motility and velocity: This is about speed. How well do sperm swim and how fast can they travel to fertilize the egg.
- pH: Yep – acidity matters too. The average pH of semen is 7.2–7.8 and higher pH could indicate an infection. Lower pH indicate that the sample could be contaminated or even that there issome obstruction in the reproductive system.
- Total semen volume: This is also important. While there may be a high count, or concentration of sperm in a given sample, the total volume is still important. Men typically ejaculate 2-5 ml of semen each time. Sample volumes lower than this may indicate problems with the prostate gland or seminal vesicle.
So before you take a test it’s good to ask beforehand to make sure that the report you’ll receive will include those things to ensure you’re going to get a comprehensive picture of your overall semen health, and not just your sperm count.
How do you know if a man’s sperm is fertile?
All of these factors above taken together will indicate if a man’s sperm is fertile. Those are really the key areas to understand and focus on through your testing and reviewing any reports you receive. Yet there are always more questions like the following:
What colour is healthy sperm?
Typically health sperm will look a white or light greyish color. A yellowish color may also be perfectly fine – though it could also be an indication of jaundice or diet problems. Actually did you know that sperm can also be a lot of other colors including green, pink, red, orange, brown and black? While temporary changes in color may not mean anything — if you find your semen looking like any of these colors it’s best to see a specialist. These different colors could be indications of some serious underlying health conditions like prostatitis, prostate cancer, or sexually transmitted diseases among others.
Can clear sperm get you pregnant?
The other question some people ask is about clear sperm. Clear sperm is actually considered normal and should not be cause for alarm.
Why is my sperm so thick?
Generally speaking, though there are always some exceptions, thick sperm is also not a cause for alarm and is considered normal. Actually if your sperm is “thin” or appears watery this may be a sign of low sperm count. Having thick sperm does not indicate any other complications such as low motility or the other fertility health factors I talked about above. However variances in the consistency of your semen may be indicators of other health matters you should pay attention to such a dehydration, genital tract infections, or even hormonal imbalances. So if you experience some wild variances its best to see a specialist to check for these other things as well.
What happens if a man never releases sperm?
Sometimes men will not be able to release sperm. There are a number of factors and reasons for this. One is what is called “retrograde ejaculation”, which is when semen travels backwards into the bladder instead of through the urethra (the tube that urine passes through). In this instance the man will experience on orgasm but will not release any sperm from the penis. However they may see later in that their urine is cloudy because there is semen in it. This situation is mostly caused by medical procedures and particularly prostate surgeries. Alternatively some men just don’t produce that much semen and then effectively use it up and are unable to release sperm on subsequent orgasms. This is typically the result of genetic abnormalities.
How can I increase my sperm count?
It’s important to remember the sperm regeneration cycle I mentioned above as this will not only impact your sperm count but also the health quality of the sperm. Generally if you start taking action to increase sperm count you will also help improve the quality of your sperm as well.
So let’s first talk about the things you should NOT do or should stop doing:
Things to avoid
- Smoking: Yep, not a surprise here really. You’ve probably even seen in on the back of some cigarette packages. Smoking impacts the DNA in your sperm, influences your hormone production, and negatively impacts your sperm’s ability to reach and fertilize the egg.
- Coffee and Caffeine: A 2017 study found drinking caffeine in soda may damage sperm DNA. Drinking coffee or soda in moderation is fine but just don’t overdo it. If you’re at over 2 cans a day it’s probably best to limit there or reduce.
- Alcohol: Generally the same as with caffeine. Alcohol has also been shown to negatively impact both sperm production and quality. Again in moderation alcohol is fine just be mindful not to overdo it on a regular basis. Indeed this 2014 study found that drinking more than 40 ounces of beer per week may negatively impact sperm motility.
- Boxers or Briefs: This is a myth we need to debunked. You’re fine with either. The point here is really about not having your testicles too hot for an extended period of time. But there has been no truly conclusive evidence, at least that I’m aware of, that shows briefs keep the heat up to that extent.
- Stress: Yeah I know easier said than done. Studies have shown that stress reduces sexual satisfaction and may impact fertility health. The hormone cortisol at raised levels over an extended period of time will have a negative impact by lowering testosterone. So handling stress or finding ways to relax needs to be an important part of your priorities.
Now what you should do if you’re not already – and here its really all about nutrition and vitamins for fertility.
Combining nutrition and exercise to increase sperm count
- Vitamin B-12: This vitamin has all sorts of positive effects and can be found in meat, fish, and dairy. It protects your sperm from inflammation and oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals in your body.
- Vitamin C: A variety of fruits including oranges and berries as well as vegetables with vitamin C such as tomatoes and spinach all contribute to a higher sperm count.
- Nuts: This one was a surprise to me and I’ve been now known to say nuts are good for your nuts! A 2018 study found that almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts consumed regularly over a 14-week period alone increases sperm count.
- Lycopene: This is how foods like tomatoes and watermelons their rich red color and also reduces reactive oxygen species (ROS) in your body. ROS can damage DNA and hurt sperm so keeping a health intake of lycopene (4 to 8 milligrams (mg) a day) has been shown to increase sperm count and improve motility.
- Exercise and weight loss: Studies have clearly shown a linkage between the combination of low activity and high body mass with poor sperm quality. Obesity can also impact testosterone levels as well. So before you start piling on the nuts and lycopene its best to first review where you’re at on the scale and see if you need to trim some weight off.
How do you keep sperm healthy?
Generally abiding by these guidelines above will keep your sperm health. It is however important to note that sperm health will decline with age. This recent study showed that “conception during a 12-month period was 30% less likely for men over age 40 years as compared with men younger than age 30 years”. It is however helpful to remember that within the overall decline you can still effect change to improve your sperm health and that this will take some sustained effort over that regeneration period of about 64 days. So no, eating nuts for 12 days is not the strategy. You need to stick with it over several months and you are likely to see significant improvements regardless of your age.
How can I increase my sperm count naturally?
A lot of people worry they have to pump themselves with weird supplements or drugs to improve sperm quality. Even more so people wonder if they will need some type of real medical intervention. While there are always exceptions, and it’s always best to see a specialist for advice, as I’ve explained above there are a wide variety of natural options available to improve sperm count and health naturally. Again a lot of the impact can be made by cutting back on some vices, improving some lifestyle activities like exercise and stress, and improving your diet to ensure you include the key vitamins that are really linked to sperm health.
Benefits of proactive fertility
So taken altogether the good news is that whatever age or stage you are at you have a lot of low cost, natural options available to improve your sperm count and overall health. It’s also really helpful to remember that in just a few months of adopting these habits you can see some real improvement. This is why it’s so important to be proactive about this when thinking about your fertility journey and trying to conceive.
Taking a proactive approach to improving your sperm quality and count over a few months before starting to try to conceive can make a huge difference! It may lead you to conceive quicker and even have a healthier pregnancy with reduced risk of miscarriage. I have to say many men, in fact most, that I talk to are like I was and never think about this or realise they have a role to play in reducing risk of pregnancy complications. I wish I had known that before I started trying to have kids and “manned up” to play the best role I could on our fertility journey.