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Is All Sperm Quality the Same Around the World?

Sperm quality is affected by many different factors.

May 11, 2020
Bridget Houlihan

Main image courtesy of Healthline.

A man’s sperm count is dependent upon many variables, but it appears that some men are worse off than others. A study done on Swiss men showed that they have some of the lowest sperm counts in the world, which has contributed to the sharp rise in couples seeking assisted reproductive procedures such as IVF treatments. How are some men’s sperm worse off than others, and is there anything they can do to prevent their decreasing fertility? Keep reading and we’ll discuss:

  • Why do some men have a low sperm count?
  • How can they increase their fertility?
  • Is this the new normal?

man standing on a mountain.
Studies have shown more men than we thought are suffering from a low sperm count.

Why the Low Sperm Counts?

Men experience lower than normal sperm counts for a variety of reasons

The study looked at men’s sperm counts across Europe, and only 38% of Swiss men had above average sperm counts--which is a concentration of between 41-67 million per ml of semen. Seventeen percent of those Swiss men were considered sub-fertile, with less than 15 million per ml of semen and the researchers concluded this group would struggle to have children. On the other end of the spectrum, men from Spain, Lithuania, and Estonia were found to have the highest concentration of sperm, although scientists note it is difficult to compare studies from different countries as their methodologies are different.There are various reasons why men may have a lower than average sperm count, but most fit into three broad categories:

  • Lifestyle. Many men with a lower sperm count might be overweight or obese. There is also a link between decreased sperm and the overuse of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes/vaping. Anabolic steroids and other supplements taken to increase muscle mass often result in shrinking testicles and thus decrease sperm amounts. Stress and depression can also have an impact on sperm count.
  • Environment. Your body temperature might be having a bigger impact than you think on sperm production. Overheating them or exposure to occupational chemicals may also be influencing sperm count as well.
  • Medical conditions. Although genetics can play a role in sperm count, many men with lower than average counts could be dealing with an underlying condition such as cancer, diabetes, or have suffered an injury or had surgery in the testicular area.
man stretching before a run.
Keeping a healthy lifestyle and appropriate weight can help keep your sperm count at a good level.

How to Increase Sperm Counts

Learn if there’s anything you can do to increase sperm counts

Although most men don’t know they have a low sperm count until they try to start a family, there are some symptoms you should be on the lookout for. A low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, or pain around the testicles could all be red flags to larger hormonal issues that can influence sperm production. If you’ve been having unprotected sex with your partner without a pregnancy for six months or more, it might be a good idea to visit a fertility clinic to get things checked out. 

You can also make some changes to your lifestyle that could help you get your sperm count back in line. Try to keep up a healthy diet and exercise regimen, and limit your alcohol intake. 

Lower sperm count doesn’t have to be the new norm for men, and there are ways to adjust your lifestyle and environment to assist with this. It’s also helpful to visit your doctor and keep them informed of your concerns and aware of any issues you’ve been having.


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