Based on the most current World Health Organization guidelines, a healthy sperm count is 15 million per milliliter (ml) or at least 39 million per sample. A sperm count lower than 10 million per ml is considered abnormal and commonly associated with male infertility.
Anything that impacts the hormones that control the production of sperm or acts as an anti-oxidant may aid the healthy development of sperm and help improve sperm count. Overall, factors that influence testosterone levels are thought to have the most significant impact on sperm number and quality.
- Exercise and sleep have been shown to improve sperm count.
- The first recommended line of treatment is to try non-pharmacologic remedies.
- Smoking has long been known to reduce overall health, sperm production, and quality.
- Men with very low sperm counts may be prescribed medication.
Ways to increase sperm count naturally
For several decades, researchers have known that sperm quality and fertility rates have been in decline in most Western nations. According to a 2017 study, between 1973 and 2011 the average sperm count in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand dropped by 59.3 percent.
Despite studies identifying the problem, the reasons for this decline and ways to reliably reverse it are still unknown.
Several non-pharmacologic remedies have been used by ancient, herbal, and traditional medicines to increase sperm count and overall sperm health for thousands of years.
Researchers have shown that most of these remedies influence sperm count in some way.
Natural ways to increase sperm count include:
1. Exercise and sleep
Several studies have shown that weight loss and exercise in obese and overweight individuals can lead to improved or increased sperm counts. However, the science linking a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) to a healthy sperm count is still weak.
A 2017 study found that performing a 16-week aerobic exercise program of at least 50 minutes of moderate exercise at 50 to 65 percent peak heart rate 3 times weekly, increased sperm volume and concentration in 45 sedentary, obese men.
Any form of stress can cause the body to take defensive actions and conserve energy. In times of distress, it makes biological sense for the body to become less concerned with reproduction and more focused on surviving.
Reducing stress requires addressing the cause, though factors such as exercise and a healthful diet are thought to lessen the effects of stress.
For men who are experiencing severe stress, a doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications.
3. Stop smoking
A 2016 study reviewing the results of over 20 different studies with a total of nearly 6,000 participants found smoking consistently reduced sperm count.
4. Avoid excessive alcohol use and drugs
The number of studies exploring the link between sperm health and drugs is limited given ethical considerations. However, some researchers have linked the worldwide use of drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine to decreased sperm production.
5. Avoid several prescription medications
Some prescription medications can potentially decrease the healthy production of sperm. Once a person stops taking the drug, his sperm count should return to normal or increase.
Medications that temporarily reduce the production and development of sperm include:
- some antibiotics
- anabolic steroids (up to 1 year recovery time)
- exogenous (outside) testosterone
6. Fenugreek supplement
Fenugreek has long been used as a natural remedy for poor sperm health, and advocates suggest it may improve sperm count. A 2017 study found that the patent-pending compound Furosap®, which is developed from fenugreek seeds, significantly improved overall semen quality and sperm count.
Various fenugreek products, including supplements, are available to purchase online.
- citrus fruits
- whole wheat and grains
- most fish, especially wild salmon, cod, and haddock
- most shellfish, especially oysters
- vitamin D enhanced milk and milk products
- dark chocolate
- most leafy greens, especially spinach and kale
- fermented nuts and seeds
Medications to increase sperm count
A doctor may prescribe medication for men with very low sperm counts or who have additional health factors or considerations.
Medications sometimes used to treat low sperm count include:
- clomiphene citrate oral (Serophene)
- serophene oral
- Gonal-f® RFF* Redi-ject® (follitropin alfa or gonal-F) or subcutaneous (under the skin) injections
- antibiotics if caused by urinary or reproductive tract infection
- human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) (brand names Choragon and Pregnyl)
- letrozole or anastrozole
- exogenous androgens
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