Tips for Getting Pregnant with Low Sperm Count

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Curious about your chances of getting pregnant with low sperm count? You are definitely not alone. 

People often think of female health problems causing infertility. But male infertility plays a huge role in conception too—up to 1 in 5 fertility struggles in couples are solely caused by male factor infertility. 

One common male infertility factor is low sperm count. 

Keep reading for all you need to know about the realities of getting pregnant with a lower sperm count.

Low sperm count signs

There are endless diagnoses when it comes to the world of male infertility. It’s overwhelming for sure. So, what is low sperm count anyway?

A male is clinically recognized as having low sperm count (aka oligozoospermia) if there are less than 10 million sperm per milliliter of ejaculate.

And before you start blaming yourself (or your partner), know that this is more common than you think. 

In fact, low sperm count is becoming a worldwide trend. Average sperm counts have decreased by 51% between 1972 and 2018. And they are still declining each year at a rate of over 2.6%.

Factors that affect sperm production and cause low sperm count:

  • Health conditions such as diabetesobesity, and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Varicoceles (enlarged veins in the scrotum). Among men struggling to conceive, 2 in 5 have varicoceles.
  • Chromosomal defects and disorders (such as Klinefelter syndrome and cystic fibrosis)
  • Hormonal issues including insensitivities to androgens and overproduction of prolactin
  • Abnormalities of the testicles including injury, swelling (due to infection or STDs), and undescended testicles
  • Lifestyle factors like consistent strenuous physical labor, drinking alcohol, using drugs, smoking (tobacco or marijuana), and certain medications
  • Exposure to environmental pollutants or radiation (including from chemotherapy)

How do I know if I have a low sperm count?

One tell-tale sign that you may have low sperm count is if you and your partner have been actively TTC for over a year with no luck. 

If you think you or your partner are suffering from low sperm count, you will need to get a semen analysis. 

A semen sample will reveal any issues with sperm health including volume, structure, and movement (all of which affect fertility).

This is a standard test that can be done by your doctor, a medical lab, or a fertility clinic. The male patient will ejaculate into a cup that will be taken by the medical professional for testing.

If this weirds you out, that is totally understandable. Nowadays though, many facilities allow the patient to produce the sperm sample at home and bring it in for testing (within a set time to ensure freshness).

Some men who still find this to be too awkward may wonder: Can I check my sperm count at home?

The short answer here is yes. But not all at-home tests on the market are reliable. And many of them only check for sperm count and provide no data on other sperm factors like shape and movement. 

Try not to overthink this test. Male infertility is very common, so you don’t need to feel awkward getting a semen analysis done by a medical professional. 

If the analysis reveals a low sperm count, the test should be repeated at least one more time. Certain factors (such as time since previous ejaculation) can affect the outcome of the semen analysis.

Low sperm count and fertility

Low sperm count is just one of many issues that can affect a man’s ability to conceive. But it is one of the most common. Nearly 2% of all men experience issues with sperm parameters (including sperm count).

Chances of getting pregnant with low sperm count

If you want to get pregnant, and you or your partner suffers from low sperm count, don’t despair. You can still conceive naturally with low sperm count. It may take longer, but there are some glimmers of hope.

Nearly a quarter of couples experiencing infertility will get pregnant within two years without treatment. 

And 7.6% of men with severe low sperm count go on to conceive naturally within 2 years.

However, in some cases, you may have to consult your doctor or a fertility specialist about male infertility.

When do I consult a doctor?

With any health issue, it is always a good idea to consult a doctor sooner rather than later. Getting answers sooner means trying out solutions sooner. 

If any of these statements applies to you, you should consult a medical professional about low sperm count:

  • You have been actively TTC for over a year with no luck. 
  • You have experienced one or more of the factors that affect sperm production (discussed in the previous section). 
  • You just have a feeling that something could be messing with your fertility. 

Can you get treated for low sperm count?

Having a low sperm count is by no means a dead end for conception. Thankfully, there are quite a few treatment options.

The best treatment option will depend on the underlying reason for the low sperm count. So definitely consult your doctor or a fertility specialist before starting any treatment!

Here are some potential treatment options for low sperm count:

Lifestyle changes

Some men may see improved sperm counts when they make healthier lifestyle choices. These can include the following:

  • Avoid substance usage: Using tobacco products, smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol in excess, and illicit drug use are all known to cause issues with fertility in addition to overall health and well-being. Stay away from these products when trying to conceive. 
  • Take prescription drugs with caution: Using certain prescription drugs, body-building supplements, and medications used to treat certain cancers can all impact a male’s sperm health. Talk to your healthcare provider about your medications while trying to get pregnant. 
  • Avoid exposure to pollutants: Being exposed to radiation, heavy metals (like high levels of mercury in certain foods), and pesticides can affect male fertility.  It can also increase the amount of time it takes for a couple to get pregnant. Even low doses of these environmental toxins harm sperm health when exposure is frequent. Most men don’t realize they are chronically exposed since so many chemicals are part of our modern ways of living. 
  • Eat nutritiously: Eating a well-balanced diet with produce free from pesticides and external hormonal injections, can improve your overall health as well as your reproductive health. This will benefit you and your partner while TTC.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Obesity (or a higher than average BMI) is linked to issues with infertility, including low sperm count and quality. Talk to your doctor about healthy ways to lose weight if you are trying to conceive.
  • Avoiding hot tubs: There is conflicting evidence here. But some studies suggest that wet heat can harm sperm production. It may be better to stay away from hot tubs when you’re TTC just to be safe. 


This is an amino acid and antioxidant (taken orally at 3g). It has been proven in small studies to result in improved sperm count and quality.

Coenzyme Q10: 

Small studies have shown statistically significant effects on sperm count with a regiment of CoQ10. In one trial, infertile men took 200mg of CoQ10 daily for 3 months. And they saw improvements in sperm count, motility, and morphology.


This is a procedure that can be done for men who have a varicocele. A varicocelectomy is done laparoscopically while you are asleep. The doctor will cut large veins that are blocking the flow of blood and seal them off with small clamps or by applying heat. 
Studies have shown that this method can result in improved semen quality in 60-70% of patients. Sadly, this procedure is less likely to help fertility outcomes in men suffering severe oligozoospermia.

Surgeries for blockages: 

For men who have no sperm in their semen, there are several surgeries that can potentially help. For example, those with ejaculatory duct blockage can get a Transurethral Resection of the Ejaculatory Duct (TURED).

How long does it take to see changes in sperm quality?

Once you’ve taken steps to improve your sperm count, be patient. Your sperm quality won’t change immediately. 

It takes about 64 days to see results. That’s the amount of time from when sperm is first produced in the testes until it comes out in your semen via ejaculation. 

So the earlier you start making changes, the sooner you will see improvements.  

How can I increase my chances of getting pregnant with a low sperm count?

One way is by ensuring that you have sexual intercourse during peak ovulation for the female partner. 

Most people tend to overestimate how “simple” it is to get pregnant. The truth is that there are a lot of factors that have to line up perfectly in order for conception to occur. 

One of these factors is ensuring that you have unprotected sex within the woman’s fertile window (the 4 days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and the day after ovulation).  Your best chance at conception is having sex the day before ovulation. 

After sex, sperm can survive for up to 5 days in the woman’s body, but a released egg will only survive for 12-24 hours. So timing the intercourse to be in this fertile window is very important. 

Keeping sex fun and reducing stress can also boost your chances of pregnancy. Though no studies have definitively proven that infertility causes stress, most women agree that higher stress levels and anxiety go hand in hand with struggling to conceive.

Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) can also be effective for couples experiencing male infertility due to low sperm count:

  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI) – the sperm is inserted into the woman’s uterus via a syringe and tube.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF) – 1 or more eggs is retrieved from the woman in an egg retrieval procedure. Then the egg is joined with the sperm in a petri dish for fertilization. Once fertilized, the embryo is placed back in the woman’s uterus to hopefully implant in the uterine wall.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) – this is a revolutionary type of IVF. It involves a needle injecting a single sperm into the egg for fertilization.

Depending on the specific issues with the male reproductive system, there are several methods that can be used to extract the sperm for ART. These include:

  • Microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration
  • Percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration
  • Testicular sperm extraction
  • Testicular fine needle aspiration
  • As serious as this may seem, know that you aren’t alone. 

Low sperm count success stories

When you are struggling with male infertility, it can help to know that others who were in your shoes had positive outcomes. Here are some folks who were able to conceive despite issues with low sperm count:

A man from Kenya had azoospermia (no sperm). He and his wife were able to conceive after struggling with infertility for over 2 years. At one time, they were told their only option for children would be adoption. They sought support at a fertility clinic and did an intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) procedure. This resulted in a successful pregnancy for them.

couple from Texas was diagnosed with Male Factor Infertility. The husband suffered from low sperm count and motility due to the medication he was taking post-liver transplant. Two years later they gave birth to a baby girl after undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF).

husband and his wife were unable to conceive after several months of trying. A semen analysis revealed he had a low sperm count. This spurred him to quit smoking and adopt a healthier lifestyle. The couple was able to become pregnant without any assisted reproductive technology.

Discovering that you or your partner have low sperm count can be devastating. But so many couples out there have had successful pregnancies with this diagnosis. And there is hope for you too.

Useful terms for sperm testing

Low sperm count (oligozoospermia) is just one of many sperm disorders that affect male fertility. Here are some other sperm words you should know about to best understand sperm health:

  • Sperm morphology – the size and shape of the sperm
  • Sperm motility – efficiency of sperm movement
  • Azoospermia – absence of sperm in semen
  • Severe oligozoospermia – less than 5 million sperm per milliliter of ejaculate
  • Anejaculation – no semen is produced during sexual climax
  • Asthenozoospermia – low motility
  • Teratozoospermia – low morphology


  • Low sperm count is a common male fertility factor that is increasing among men worldwide.
  • Getting pregnant with low sperm count is possible (even without assisted reproductive technology). But it may take longer or require treatment.
  • There are a variety of treatment methods for low sperm count, but the best option will depend on the underlying cause.
  • Having frequent unprotected sex and tracking the female partner’s ovulation can boost your chances of getting pregnant with low sperm count.
  • Assisted reproductive technology (ART) can help men with low sperm count conceive.
  • It is normal to feel a range of negative emotions when dealing with infertility, but don’t lose hope.

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