How do I know if my partners sperm count is low?

By Rebecca Matthews, PhD | Last updated: March 7, 2017

When you go and see the doctor at the beginning of your fertility assessment, a semen analysis is one of the most important diagnostic tests. Semen parameters such as volume, count and motility all vary between individuals, but if the sperm count and quality is good then the numbers are of little consequence.

In addition to variation between individuals, sperm concentration varies daily within each male. Therefore, moderate discrepancies between semen samples produced on separate occasions are to be expected.

A guideline of approximately 20 million per milliliter is an average sperm count and is considered to be fertile. Any counts lower than this may be contributing to infertility, however there are many other factors which may play a role.

The only way to know for sure if the sperm count is low is to have a professional scientist assess the sample using a microscope and a special counting grid. In general, semen with a lot of sperm will be very white and opaque; a man with a low sperm count will have semen that looks clear and transparent.

There are some home tests you can buy but the accuracy of these is questionable and you will probably end up needed a professional test anyway once you go and see the doctor. If you have been trying to get pregnant for a while, this is one of the easiest, and should be one of the earliest, tests to do.

In order to do a semen analysis, the man will be asked to collect a sample by masturbation into a sterile cup, you should get this from the clinic or the pharmacy. Don’t use household containers as they could have contamination that kills the sperm. There are special condoms that can be used to collect semen samples through intercourse if the man has trouble collecting the sample through masturbation. These are available at the fertility clinic; you can’t use regular condoms as these often contain spermicide.

When collecting the sample for semen analysis (or treatment) it’s important not to use any lubricants other than those specially made for this purpose. There are fertility friendly lubricants such as Pre-Seed that are perfectly fine to use.

You don’t need to go to an expensive fertility clinic for a semen analysis, most local pathology labs can usually run this test. Ask your primary care provider to refer you to a clinic or pathology lab that offers this service.

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Written by Rebecca Matthews, PhD | Embryologist

Rebecca Matthews, PhD

Dr. Rebecca Matthews has a PhD in embryo implantation and currently works as an embryologist. Rebecca is passionate about her work and about educating and empowering people to take control of their own healthcare decisions. With this in mind, she has written an IVF guidebook to help patients understand the processes and options involved in fertility treatments. Her book, IVF: A Patient's Guide, can be found on Amazon.

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