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The Ultimate Guide to Sperm Volume

We know that sperm count, sperm motility and morphology are essential when it comes to fertility – but what about sperm volume? The amount of semen you produce can be impacted by lifestyle factors as well as underlying medical conditions. Want to know more? Let’s turn up your knowledge when it comes to male fertility!

 

What is normal sperm volume?

The volume of your sperm (or technically what we’re measuring here is your semen volume) is essentially the amount of semen you produce when you ejaculate.

This can vary from guy to guy, but on average we would like to see a measurement of between 1.5ml and 5ml. If it’s less than 1.5ml that could be cause for concern when it comes to your fertility. To give you a visual, a teaspoon holds around 5ml of liquid, so if you were producing less than 1.5ml, it would be less than a third of a teaspoon!

When analysing your sperm, clinics (and our at-home fertility test) will use the volume you produce to help calculate your total sperm count. They do this by multiplying your sperm concentration (the amount of sperm cells they can see in 1 ml of semen) by your volume.

You ideally want to see a total sperm count of 39 million per ejaculate, and obviously the lower the volume, the harder it is to reach this healthy benchmark.

 

What causes low sperm quantity?

There are a variety of factors that can influence your semen volume. As with most areas of sperm health, some issues can be fixed by addressing lifestyle choices, whilst others may be connected to more complex medical conditions.

Dehydration

Like other bodily fluids, your semen production can be impacted by how much water you drink. Just like your pee becomes more concentrated if you are dehydrated, your semen can become thicker and more sticky if you aren’t drinking enough water. This not only can impact the volume of your sperm, but can also make it harder for the sperm cells in your semen to swim.

Blockages

The ejaculatory ducts allow the flow of sperm from the testes through the reproductive system and eventually out through the urethra. Blockages or obstructions in your ejaculatory ducts can lead to low semen volume or even semen that has little or no sperm cells in it. These blockages may have been there from birth or could be caused by scarring from prior surgery or infection. The best way to discover if you have a blockage is to have an ultrasound,

Prostate Issues

The prostate gland is responsible for around 20-30% of the fluid we see in our semen. Therefore having an issue with your prostate can impact the volume of your sperm. In some cases, this could be down to a blockage or an infection, but it’s important to know that in some cases low semen volume can be a sign of prostate cancer.

Retrograde Ejaculation

Retrograde ejaculation is a condition where some or all of your semen ends up in your bladder when you orgasm, rather than coming out of your penis. This obviously can cause issues with volume of sperm produced and for some men, it will mean they ejaculate no semen at all.

Lifestyle Factors

There are a few lifestyle factors that can impact volume – and they are the usual suspects when it comes to harming your sperm health! Some small studies have identified that smoking can affect sperm volume, as can binge drinking, poor sleep quality and obesity.

 

How can I improve my sperm volume?

If you are concerned about your sperm volume, we would always recommend first trying to address any obvious lifestyle factors that may be impacting it. You can start by…

If you make all these changes and still aren’t seeing an improvement in the amount of sperm you’re producing, it’s probably a good idea to speak to your doctor. They will be able to advise on the next steps and investigations.

Even if your sperm volume is being caused by an underlying medical condition, there is a good chance it can be rectified. Minor surgery can tackle issues including blocked ejaculatory ducts, retrograde ejaculation and prostate issues can also be addressed with surgery or medication.

 

Can I get pregnant with a poor sperm volume?

It is definitely possible to still get pregnant with a low sperm volume, although depending on your sperm concentration, it could be harder for you. It all comes down to the calculation we mentioned earlier. Remember, we want to see around 39 million sperm cells per ejaculate. If you are only producing 1 ml of semen, but in that millimetre, there are 40 million sperm cells, you technically have a better chance of conceiving than someone who produces 3 ml of semen, but only has 2 million sperm cells per millilitre. If you are struggling with both sperm count and volume, this is where problems can arise.

It’s also important to remember that whilst sperm cells are the stars of the show when it comes to conception, your semen still plays a vital role in the protection and travel of those cells, so even if your sperm count is high, it can be helpful to still try to improve your sperm volume.

 

How can I test sperm quantity?

The good news is that, unlike other sperm parameters, volume is actually pretty easy to test for – it can technically be done just by looking at how much semen you produce when you ejaculate. But rather than masturbating onto a teaspoon (that doesn’t sound like good kitchen hygiene practice…) you can use our easy and fast at-home fertility test. Not only does the kit come with a specially designed cup that accurately indicates your sperm volume, but it also tests for sperm motility and count to give you a Total Motile Sperm Count, which is one of the best indicators of male fertility according to the World Health Organisation.

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.

Stress

Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.

Nutrition

Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Vegetables
Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.

Heat

Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.

BMI

There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  

Alcohol

A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.

Age

Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.