Why do my sperm counts vary so much ?

Men worry when they test their sperm count and find it fluctuating wildly. But it is a medical fact that sperm counts vary all the time. It is impossible to control; and variations are more the rule than the exception

One of the most frustrating problems for infertile men is the fact that their sperm counts seem to vary all the time. On some days it is 5 million per ml; on others it drops to 2 million per ml; while on good days it goes upto 10 million per ml ! It's like the Sensex; as volatile; as hard to predict ; impossible to control; and variations in the sperm count cause as much stress as dips in the Sensex !

Remember that the testes are sperm production factories which produce billions of sperm daily. The efficiency of this factory is affected by many variables, many of which we still cannot identify ! Even in a normal healthy fertile man, sperm counts fluctuate all the time - and can vary all the way from 10 million per ml to 80 million per ml !

What makes a bad situation worse is the fact that many medical laboratories are not very good at testing the sperm. A semen analysis is a high-complexity test, but because it costs very little, many laboratories do it very casually, and provide erroneous results, which just cannot be trusted !

The problem of varying sperm counts is exacerbated in infertile men ! While the truth is that we do not know what causes the sperm count to drop ( or to rise for that matter), when the count drops, men often tend to blame themselves. Wives will often add to their guilt by blaming the drop on the usual culprits : a poor diet; unhealthy lifestyle; late nights; stress; or on smoking or drinking.

Many wives will nag their husbands to completely stop smoking, drinking or partying. It's very unlikely that social drinking or an occasional smoke affects the sperm counts and all these prohibitions just create unhappiness and bickering. Some men will deliberately throw away all their bad semen analysis results and just show the good results to their wife and the doctor
( and some continue to refuse to believe that a macho man like them can have poor quality sperm !)

We need to understand that we really know very little about sperm production - and there's very little the poor man can do to improve his sperm count ! In all honesty, there's very little the poor doctor can do either ! All we can provide are the standard platitudes - Eat a well-balanced nutritious healthy diet ; exercise regularly ; avoid stress; stop smoking; stop drinking; take vitamins; take supplements ; take these medicines ; and so on, but all these measures have very little effect on the infertile man's low sperm count !

Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.