Q: My questions are what signs & causes of a low sperm count & watery sperm? Do they have any remedy? Can they fertilize egg?
A: Thanks for writing in.
One of the causes of ‘watery’ sperm is pre-ejaculate (a lubricating fluid) which may contain some sperm cells. It is believed that the sperm in the pre-ejaculate is not there at the time the fluid is produced, but is sperm from previous ejaculations that was probably left in the urethra. It is thought that urinating and cleaning the tip of the penis before sexual intercourse helps to clear the urethra of the sperm left from previous ejaculations. Diets poor in protein, frequent ejaculation as occurs in people who masturbate and exposing the testicles to high temperatures like in saunas could lead to a watery consistency of semen.
Just to be sure you do know what normal semen should look like, below is a guide.
Using WHO reference values, a normal semen sample should fulfill the following:
- Volume amount of sperm produced in one ejaculation): Greater than or equal to 1.5 ml
- pH (whether acidic or alkaline. If less than 7, it’s acidic and greater than 7 is alkaline): Greater than equal to 7.2
- Viscosity (being semi-fluid): viscous
- Transparency: opaque
- Motility (percentage of sperm that move forward normally): This should be more than 40%
- Morphology (percentage of sperm that have normal shape): This should be greater than or equal to 15% normal, oval sperm heads
- Liquefaction (time taken for the semen to become ‘liquid’): This should be complete within one hour
- Pus cells should be less than 1 million/ml or less than 5/hpf
- Total sperm count: This should be greater than or equal to 15 million.
The causes of low sperm count, which is often considered a cause of watery sperm, could be medical, environmental or due to lifestyle issues. Sometimes, the cause(s) can, also not be identified.
Medical causes include infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia, certain drugs used for cancer and fungal infections, hormone imbalance, undescended testes, varicocele (swelling of veins that drain the testicle) and cancer.
Environmental causes include over-exposure to industrial chemicals, heavy metals and X-rays; over-heating the testicles by frequently using the sauna and hot tubs; prolonged bicycling
Lifestyle causes include alcohol use, tobacco smoking, illegal drug use, obesity and emotional stress.
To get a woman pregnant, a man has to have at least 40 million sperm per ejaculate. People with low sperm count usually have less than this.
If you have been diagnosed with low sperm count, then do something about it. Here are some tips that could help to improve your sperm count. Treatment is generally based on the cause:
Stress has been found to contribute to infertility problems such as hormonal issues. So, prevent excessive stress and perform relaxation exercises. Remember that infertility and life in general can be stressful. Learn to relax.
Stop smoking because smoking significantly reduces both sperm count and the movement of sperm cells.
Prevent overheating of the scrotum: When scrotal temperature rises (caused by tight underwear, long stays in a sauna or Jacuzzi, for example) sperm production can be impaired.
Maintain a healthy weight: Not too under or overweight since weight influences estrogen and testosterone levels.
Stop using drugs: Prolonged use of recreational drugs (for example, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine)
If you have infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia, these need to be treated.
Surgeries can be done for varicocele and cancers. Radio and chemotherapy are also treatment options for cancer.
Medications or hormone replacements can be used for hormonal problems.
The major challenge with low sperm count is infertility. Sometimes, the treatments listed above do not work, especially when the cause is not known. But IVF is an option that exists for this group of people.
So, first thing is to confirm from the doctor what exactly the cause of the low sperm count is (if known) and then review your options from there.
All the best.