Sperm count

Sperm count refers to the total number of sperm in the entire ejaculate or semen sample. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sperm count should fall anywhere between 39 to 928 million per ejaculation. This directly impacts fertility, as people with a lower sperm count are more likely to have trouble conceiving.

What is sperm count?

Sperm count is the total number of sperm in a person's semen. This is one of the core sperm quality parameters measured in a semen analysis test

Measuring sperm count

Total sperm count is measured by multiplying a person's sperm concentration by the semen volume

Once sperm concentration is calculated, it is multiplied by the total volume (in milliliters) of a single ejaculate. Since there are millions of sperm in a single semen sample, this is the most efficient way to measure sperm count with accuracy.

Because normal sperm concentrations vary from 15–259 million sperm per milliliter, and normal semen volumes range from 1.5–5mL, the total sperm count considered “normal” has a wide range: 39 million to over 1 billion.

Sperm count and male fertility

Low sperm count is the most common cause of male infertility. According to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, a normal and healthy sperm count is 39 million (or greater) sperm per ejaculate. If your total sperm count is lower, then you may experience difficulty naturally conceiving.

More importantly, sperm count is a key piece in the calculation of total motile sperm count, the most important indicator of fertility. Total motile sperm count can be found by multiplying the total sperm count by the percentage of sperm that are motile (or moving). A total motile sperm count of 20 million or more is normal.

Many factors can affect sperm count. Lifestyle habits, diet, sexually transmitted diseases and infections, genetics, and certain chronic illnesses can all negatively impact sperm count. 

If you get a semen analysis and the results show low sperm count, your physician may recommend taking a second test to confirm results. From there, if low sperm count is confirmed, they may order other diagnostic tests to understand what is causing your sperm count to be low.

Sperm count vs. sperm concentration

Sperm count and sperm concentration sound synonymous, but they are two different figures. Sperm concentration refers to the density of sperm per milliliter of semen, while sperm count refers to the total number of sperm in an entire ejaculate. So while low sperm count may also indicate low sperm concentration, and vice versa, these figures represent different areas.

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