- In This Feature
- How Do You Obtain a Sample?
- How Are Samples Analyzed?
- What Other Sperm Tests Are Available?
- What Can Cause Abnormal Sperm Counts?
- What Treatment Options Are Available?
- What Is a Urologist Evaluation?
- How Does the Infertility Evaluation Proceed?
- When to Test His Fertility
- What Happens if We Still Have Trouble Conceiving?
What Can Cause Abnormal Sperm Counts?
Several factors can have a hand in inadequate sperm production from outside influences to genetic predispositin.
- Heat: Sperm production is sensitive to heat—so sensitive, in fact, that placing the testicles at normal body temperature on a chronic basis stops sperm production altogether. The temperature in the testicles is about four degrees lower than body temperature. Anything that tends to keep the temperature in the testicles elevated for long periods of time will likewise have a negative effect. Excessive use of hot tubs, saunas, or maybe even prolonged and heavy exercise may decrease sperm production and motility. One example often cited of an occupational exposure to excessive heat is truck drivers or farmers who often work long, hot hours in heavy clothing such as blue jeans.
- Cigarettes, alcohol, and nonprescription drugs: Cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse adversely affect sperm counts and sperm function. This is not to imply that you can't have a beer or two on the weekend, but heavy alcohol intake can have a very significant effect. In short, if you drink, do so in moderation. If you smoke, quit. (See the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's fact sheet on smoking and fertility.)
Illicit drugs definitely affect sperm counts. Marijuana and cocaine are the prime examples of drugs that interfere with sperm production. Anabolic steroid use is also well known to decrease sperm production.
- Prescription drugs, infections, and illnesses: Certain medications such as sulfasalazine (used for ulcerative colitis), cimetidine (used for ulcers), and calcium-channel blockers (used for high blood pressure) alter sperm production and function. The use of any medication on a chronic basis should be brought to the attention of your physician. Prenatal exposure to DES (diethylstilbestrol, a hormone used in the past to help prevent miscarriage) can dramatically decrease sperm production.