By BSc, MSc (embryologist) and MD, FACOG, FACS, FACE (reproductive endocrinologist).
Last Update: 06/11/2015

The sperm count found in the semen is important because it organically travels to the egg, and many die in the journey. To travel along the female reproductive tract, the cervix and location of the egg through the fallopian tubes is a real biological gymkhana in which many don’t make it to their final destination. That is why it is important to start the race with a good sperm count.

Sperm count in semen is evaluated through a semen analysis (SA), which shows an general overview of seminal quality. However, a male fertility evaluation should include other tests aside from a SA. The goal is to diagnose the origin of infertility, although a SA helps assessing at a glance whether there is an evident problem affecting the sperm count and motility. In case there is one, the most suitable fertility treatment should be chosen.

Procedure to evaluate sperm concentration

Semen sample is deposited on a sterile container. The sample rests for 20 minutes, to help the liquefaction of the fluid. Later, a drop of semen is studied under the microscope.

An instrument known as counting chamber is used to facilitate the counting. A slide with a sharply outlined grid can be seen under the microscope, making possible the spermatozoa count.

The drop of semen is a sample of the total spermatozoa volume. To make the sample more representative, two drops are used to make the counting. If there are lots of spermatozoa, some rows of the grid are counted and a mean is calculated. To count motile spermatozoa is no easy task, as they swim underneath the grid and sometimes is hard to distinguish one from the other.

Once spermatozoa is completely counted, the amount of millions per milliliter in the ejaculate is calculated. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), normal values are those equal or higher than 15 millions per ml of ejaculated semen. That means that in couples that have children by natural ways, the male counterpart has 15 million spermatozoa/ml on average.

Altered values of sperm concentration

Values below 15 millions do not necessarily indicate a fertility problem. A reliable spermiogram comprises at least two seminograms.

When a semen analysis shows abnormal, non-permanent findings, it may be due to some of the following factors or situations:

  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • An episode of fever three months prior to the test
  • Being under stress

After these initial symptoms pass, sperm concentration levels usually return to normal. Hence the importance of undergoing a second seminogram once these factors or situations have finished.

Determination of sperm concentration

Depending on the sperm concentration results determined after the seminogram, a disease may be diagnosed. The patient will be then recommended that ART which greater chances for pregnancy offers according to his pathology.

In case normal parameters have not been reached, it is time to decide which procedure to use. A concentration of less than 15 millions/ml is called oligozoospermia or oligospermia. In mild cases, artificial insemination (AI) may be enough to achieve pregnancy.

Situations of less than 100.000 spermetazoa per ml, when oligozoospermia is quite noticeable, are known by the name of cryptozoospermia, requiring a more complex technique to achieve pregnancy: in vitro fertilisation or ICSI.

The azoospermia is the total lack of spermatozoa. There are two types: secreting azoospermia, with no production at all of spermatozoa, and obstructive spermatozoa, in which the production of spermatozoa cannot be released because of the obstruction of a duct.

FAQs from users

How much amount of sperm is considered optimal in a sperm sample?

By Mark P. Trolice MD, FACOG, FACS, FACE (reproductive endocrinologist).

When we perform an evaluation of a semen sample, we analyze several factors, most importantly density (the amount of sperm per millimeter of ejaculate), motility (the percentage of moving sperm), morphology (the percentage of normal shaped sperm), volume (the amount of the ejaculate), and pH.

As a result, the measurement of density is not sufficient to provide reassurance for the adequacy of the semen sample. Ideally, if all parameters at the time of the semen analysis are near or above normal ranges and there is greater than 20 million motile sperm following semen processing in preparation for insemination of the eggs, then the semen sample is considered optimal for IVF.

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Authors and contributors

 Laura Garrido
Laura Garrido
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Pablo de Olavide University (UPO) of Seville, Spain. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV) and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Experience at IVF, andrology, and general analysis laboratories. Embryologist specialized in Assisted Reproduction. More information about Laura Garrido
 Mark P. Trolice
Mark P. Trolice
MD, FACOG, FACS, FACE
Reproductive Endocrinologist
Mark P. Trolice is the Director of Fertility CARE – The IVF Center and Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB/GYN) at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. He is Board-certified in REI and OB/GYN, and maintains annual recertification. His colleagues select him as Top Doctor in America® annually, one among the top 5% of doctors in the U.S. More information about Mark P. Trolice
License: ME 78893

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One comment

    1. Israel

      Very informative site. I was so much blessed.