What is the meaning of ‘oligospermia’?

Oligospermia, also known as oligozoospermia, is a sperm pathology that affects a male’s sperm count by causing poor or low sperm count.

In this sense, oligospermia is characterized by a diminished sperm concentration after ejaculation, which can make it difficult for a couple to achieve pregnancy, or even prevent it. For this reason, it is considered to be a cause of male infertility.

There exist treatments, both natural remedies or via assisted reproductive technology (ART), that can cure this pathology, or help deal with it in the journey toward pregnancy, depending on the type of oligospermia and its severity.

The various sections of this article are assembled in the following table of contents.

Definition

Oligospermia or oligozoospermia refers to a male of childbearing age that has been diagnosed with low sperm count after undergoing a semen analysis (SA).

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2010 criteria, sperm concentration should be less than 15 million spermatozoa per milliliter to get a diagnosis of oligospermia.

The WHO has established an amount of 15 million sperm per milliliter as the minimum reference value to consider that a patient has a normal sperm count, which is known as normozoospermia, that is, normal sperm.

In order for oligospermia to be detected, the male has to undergo a semen analysis. It involves the analysis of the semen sample under the microscope to evaluate the different sperm parameters, including sperm concentration, sperm motility, sperm morphology, etc.

A semen analysis allows us to detect other seminal alterations such as asthenozoospermia (slow sperm), and teratozoospermia (poor sperm morphology).

It causes male infertility

Men who have their sperm parameters altered are considered to be infertile, as such alterations reduce or eliminate their fertilization potential.

In the case of oligospermia, given that there is a low sperm count in the ejaculate, the chances for the sperms to ascend in the female reproductive tract and reach the uterus and the Fallopian tubes are lower, and subsequently they are less likely to be able to fertilize the egg and get the woman pregnant naturally.

Out of the number of males in reproductive age, fertility issues appear in about 12-18% of the cases. Out of them, male factor infertility is the cause of infertility in the couple in 50% of the cases.

It is rather difficult to determine which percentage of male infertility cases is caused by oligospermia, though. Moreover, a man can have multiple sperm alterations at the same time, given that they are connected with each other.

If you want to learn more about the cases of this sperm pathology, we invite you to read the following post: Causes of oligospermia.

Low sperm count numbers

When a man has less than 15 million sperm per milliliter, depending on how low his count is, we distinguish between different levels of severity. Such levels are used to diagnose how severe the problem is on a case-by-case basis. It is classified into the following groups:

  • Mild oligospermia: 14-5 million sperm/ml
  • Moderate oligospermia: 5-1 million sperm/ml
  • Severe oligospermia: <1 million sperm/ml

Even though getting pregnant with oligospermia is complicated, it should be noted that today’s infertility treatments allow couples from all over the world overcome the obstacles that sperm may find naturally, and allow for fertilization to occur successfully.

The most severe form of oligospermia occurs when no sperm is found in the semen sample, a pathology known as azoospermia. In such case, sperm donation might be the only solution for these couples to start a family.

FAQs from users

Can you still get pregnant with low sperm count?

Indeed. A natural pregnancy is still possible as long as it is a case of mild oligospermia, as the semen sample still contains some sperm. Obviously, it will be more difficult and might take more time, but pregnancy is possible provided that sperm motility is not altered.

Artificial insemination can be highly successful in cases of mild oligospermia and allow a couple to achieve pregnancy in a short period of time.

Can oligospermia be treated?

Yes, although choosing the right treatment to cure oligospermia forever is difficult, as detecting the specific cause behind it is not always possible. Sometimes, it is nothing but a temporary alteration caused by a trauma or stress. Men in these situations are normally able to boost their sperm count after a reasonable period of time. On the other hand, if it is caused by an endocrine factor, hormonal treatment might be helpful.

Can low sperm count cause quick ejaculation?

No, there is no link between them. Low sperm count does not cause quick ejaculation, not vice versa.

Is there any natural treatment that can cure oligospermia?

There exist some natural remedies such as damiana or tribulus terrestris for infusion, Korean ginseng in capsules, Maca root powder, or certain Ayurveda treatments that are believed to improve oligospermia. Some experts state that acupuncture can be helpful as well. However, the natural remedy that best works involves following a healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet, and quitting unhealthy habits such smoking or drinking alcohol.

What symptoms are associated with low sperm count?

There are no particular symptoms linked to oligospermia. There exist no visible or noticeable symptoms such as pain, which means males are unable to know they have oligospermia until they find out with a SA. In short, couples find it out when pregnancy does not occur after having been trying to conceive for a reasonable period of time and decide to undergo infertility testing.

Suggested for you

As explained above, a semen analysis is the tool used to diagnose oligospermia or any other sperm pathology in males. If you want to learn more about this method for diagnosis, we recommend you to read the following post: Diagnosis of oligospermia.

Males with oligospermia have the opportunity to have a baby if they choose the most appropriate fertility treatment. This post might help you learn about and decide which option might be the most adequate for you: Treatments for male infertility.

Finally, in cases of severe oligospermia or even azoospermia, sperm donation can be the only option to create a family. Would you like to learn more about this option? Check this out: Having a baby using donated sperm.

2 comments

  1. avatar
    K. M.

    Hi there! My husband underwent a seminogram and the result was that he had a low sperm count and his sperm is very slow, Besides, some present abnormal sperm morphology. He is a heavy smoker and I think that’s the cause behind these awful results… Can you tell me if tobacco has indeed an influence on sperm quality? Thanks.

    • avatar
      Sandra F.Fertility counselor

      Tobacco consumption affects all parameters of seminal quality, that is to say, morphology, concentration, and motility. Quitting smoking or at least reducing its consumption together with eating antioxidant-rich foods every day (fruit and vegetables) during at least 3 months in a row may boost his seminal quality.

Calculate your
IVF cost now