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The Ultimate Guide to Sperm Count

Sperm Count Ultimate Guide

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Sperm count is a huge factor in male fertility – and we’ve lost count of the number of questions we get about it from our community! We’ve wrapped up everything we know about sperm count in this blog, so if you’re struggling with a low count you can understand the facts and your options.

What is a normal sperm count?

When we talk about sperm count we are talking about the number of sperm cells in your semen. Depending on how you are measuring it, you might talk about sperm count per millimetre or ejaculate. Technically speaking ‘sperm concentration’ refers to the number of sperm per unit volume (millilitre) of semen. The total sperm count is the total number of sperm in the entire ejaculate.

The range of what is ‘normal’ regarding count is pretty huge. Normal sperm densities can range from 15 million to over 200 million sperm cells per millilitre of semen!

Generally, the lower your count, the lower your chances of conceiving. But there are lots of other factors at play including sperm motility and DNA Fragmentation. Count alone doesn’t really tell the whole story.

However, if you have fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre or less than 39 million sperm per ejaculate, this is classed as a ‘low sperm count’. If you have no sperm cells at all, this is known as Azoospermia.

What causes a low sperm count?

Many factors can lead to a low count – but the good news is that many of them are reversible!

Poor diet

Certain foods are the enemy of sperm health – and could be one of the causes of low sperm count. If your diet contains lots of foods that are processed, high in sugar or trans fats, try to cut them down. Focusing on eating a Mediterranean Diet is a great place to start when supporting your sperm.

Being Overweight

Research shows that overweight men are 11% more likely to have a low sperm count compared to men with a healthy BMI. Likewise, obese men were 42% more likely to have a low sperm count than their normal-weight peers and 81% more likely to produce no sperm – so keeping your weight in an optimal range is important if you are hoping to start a family.

Bad habits

We know that smoking, taking drugs and drinking alcohol excessively are not good for our overall well-being – and these things could also have an impact on your sperm health.

Poor Sleep

Research has indicated that poor sleep quality can play a role in reduced sperm count. Now, before you get excited thinking that lie-ins equal a improved sperm , the study seemed to show that men who slept too little or too much were both affected.


Certain medications including testosterone replacement therapy, anabolic steroids and antidepressants could have an impact on your sperm health.

Heat Damage

Sperm cells tend to die when they are exposed to too much heat – which can obviously play a part in lowering your count. If you’ve been hitting the saunas and hot tubs, wearing tight underwear or doing lots of sport that crushes your balls for extended periods of time (aka cycling) this could be part of the reason your sperm count is low.

Medical Reasons

Certain medical conditions can result in low sperm count – and these are sometimes harder to resolve than lifestyle factors. These include varicoceles (which can sometimes be dealt with through a simple operation) and genetic disorders including Klinefelter Syndrome.

Environmental Factors

If you are struggling with low sperm count, you are not alone – this is a global problem! In 1992 the British Medical Journal published a Danish study into the decline of sperm quality between 1940 and 1990. They reported a 50% decrease in average sperm counts.

A more recent large meta-study reviewing data from research all over the world also found that sperm count is definitely dropping. Between 1973 and 2011, sperm counts have decreased 50-60%. That’s around a 1% decrease per year.

This general decline in sperm health is thought to be down to the changes in our modern society. There is more pollution in the air, we are leading more sedentary lives and there are fewer nutrients in the foods that we eat.


How can I improve my sperm count?

If you suspect that your poor sperm health is down to lifestyle factors, there are many things you can do to improve it, including:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Reducing your alcohol intake
  • Reducing the amount of processed or sugary foods you are eating
  • Eating more sperm superfoods like oily fish, grains, berries and dark leafy greens – and generally more whole foods
  • Reaching a healthy weight if your BMI is high
  • Take supplements that include nutrients like zinc, and selenium, (our ExSeed Multi fertility supplement can help with that)
  • Ensuring you’re getting enough Omega-3 in your diet (oily fish is great for that!) and top up your levels with a good Omega-3 supplement if needed
  • Wear looser boxer shorts to keep your testicles cooler
  • Make sure your phone and laptop are kept away from your testicles to reduce heat exposure
  • Make sure you’re getting 8 hours of sleep a night
  • Reducing your exposure to toxins and plastics

Can I get pregnant with a low sperm count?

Even if you are unable to improve your sperm count through lifestyle changes, it is possible to conceive with a low count – it might just be a little harder.

It’s always worth continuing to try to conceive naturally – it only takes one good swimmer after all! But it might be advised to consider fertility treatments – especially if you have been trying for a while or you are concerned about time-sensitive factors like age.

Men with few sperm can benefit from assisted fertility treatments such as ICSI, where embryologists can find and select a strong sperm cell and insert it directly into the egg.

If your sperm count is extremely low or non-existent, it might be worth considering using a sperm donor. This might be a difficult concept to get your head around at first, but donor sperm has helped many men become fathers and couples become families, so it is definitely worth looking into and checking out the Knackered Knackers community run by our mate and donor dad Shaun!

Proactive Sperm Testing

It’s so important to test proactively to understand whether your count is impacting your fertility journey. Our at-home sperm test makes it easier than ever to get to know your swimmers and tests three key factors – count, motility and volume – to give you a Total Motile Sperm Count score. Based on your results our app will then advise you on the next steps, be that improving your lifestyle or seeking emotional advice.

You can learn more about the ExSeed completely at-home sperm test here!

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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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.  


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”.


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.