- Taking certain medications
- Scarring from past surgery or infection
- Cancer or prior cancer treatment
- Hormonal imbalances
- Certain diseases like Celiac d isease
- Some genetic disorders
- Undescended testicles
- Anti-sperm antibodies
- Swelling in the testicular veins
- Illicit drug use
- Alcohol abuse
- Having a job that requires prolonged sitting or exposure to certain industrial chemicals
- Smoking tobacco products
- Emotional stress or depression
The main symptom of low sperm count and motility is difficulty getting a partner pregnant. Motility refers to the ability of sperm to move through a woman’s cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes.
In some cases, other symptoms may include:
Remedies and Treatments for Low Sperm Count and Motility
Most remedies for low sperm count and motility that you can try at home deal with changing lifestyle factors to improve reproductive health.
Eat the Right Diet
Your diet may play a big role in your fertility health. Some studies suggest that certain foods contribute to a decrease in sperm count, including:
- Processed meats like hot dogs and salami. The reason behind the relationship between processed meats and sperm count isn't yet clear, but preliminary studies show a connection.
- Foods with trans fats.Trans fats lead to heart disease, but some studies show they also lead to reduced sperm count. Luckily, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned most trans fats in the U.S., making them easier to avoid.
- Soy products. Soy has phytoestrogen, a compound that is similar to the hormone estrogen. Consuming too much of it can lead to lower sperm count.
- High-fat dairy products like whole milk. Researchers aren't entirely sure why consuming high-fat dairy products leads to lower sperm count. One theory is that it is due to steroids given to cows.
- Foods with pesticides on them. Some pesticides act as xenoestrogens. Similar to phytoestrogens, they mimic the hormone estrogen in your body. This can lower your sperm count. Wash your produce before eating to reduce pesticide exposure.
- Foods packaged with bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA also contains xenoestrogens.
Foods that can help to improve sperm count and motility include:
- Fish. Doctors hypothesize that the high content of omega-3 fatty acids in fish improves sperm count.
- Fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables have higher concentrations of vitamins and antioxidants — which can protect your cells from damage — that may improve sperm count.
- Walnuts. One study found that consuming 18 walnuts a day for 12 weeks improved sperm count.
Smoking causes reproductive health issues in both men and women. Smoking is related not only to lower sperm count, but also to damaged DNA in sperm. This can lead to miscarriages and other reproductive issues.
Sperm takes about three months to mature. For that reason, experts recommend quitting smoking at least three months before you try to conceive.
Quitting smoking immediately improves sperm quality. After three months, the chances of increased sperm count and motility are even greater.
Take Supplements That Can Improve Sperm Count
The following supplements may improve sperm count and male fertility issues.
- D-aspartic acid (D-AA). Experts believe this amino acid is related to low sperm count because men with fertility issues have lower levels of it. Studies show that taking this acid as a supplement can raise testosterone levels. If hormonal issues are the cause of your low sperm count and motility problems, this supplement may help.
- Vitamin C. This powerful antioxidant protects your body's cells from oxidative stress, which leads to deterioration of cells. Oxidative stress can contribute to anything from heart disease to cancer. Studies show it may also lead to infertility. One study showed that taking 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C per day for two months increased sperm motility by over 90% and doubled sperm count. It also decreased the amount of damaged sperm by more than half.
- Vitamin D. Studies show that people deficient in vitamin D are more likely than others to have low testosterone levels, which could lead to lower sperm count. One study showed that taking vitamin D for a year increased testosterone levels significantly.
- Fenugreek. One study showed that taking Testofen — a supplement made from fenugreek extract — improved testosterone levels, sexual function, and sexual frequency. This is another supplement that may help hormonally related low sperm count and motility issues.
- Zinc. Studies show that zinc supplementation increases both sperm count and testosterone levels, but only in those already deficient in it. However, too much zinc in semen may damage sperm, so further study is needed to determine the exact dosage and application for this use.
- Ashwagandha. Supplementing with the herb ashwagandha daily for three months led to a more than 150% increase in sperm count in one study. The same study also showed a more than 50% increase in motility.
- Maca root. One preliminary study showed that taking maca root powder daily for four months improved both motility and sperm count. However, more study is needed.
- Coenzyme Q10. Early studies show that using this supplement increased sperm counts by about 17% and motility by over 50%. However, more study is needed to determine if this supplement leads to more live births or simply better sperm counts.
When to See a Doctor
You should call your doctor if you have been having unprotected sex for a year and no pregnancy has occurred yet. You may want to call your doctor sooner if you have:
- Issues with sexual function
- Pain or swelling in the groin area
- A lump in the groin or testes
- A history of past reproductive health issues
- A recent genital surgery
Depending on the cause of your low sperm count, your doctor may recommend any of the following:
- Surgery for blocked ejaculatory ducts
- Medication for erectile dysfunction
- Counseling to help with sexual dysfunction
- Hormonal treatment