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Sperm FAQ

How many sperm is considered normal?

According to the World Health Organisation, the amount of sperm in the average ejaculation is about 100 million. Men with less than 20 million sperm per millilitre of semen may risk having infertility issues, according to the NHS.

How many men in the UK are affected by a low sperm count?

Up to 1 in 5 young men in the UK are affected by a low sperm count. That, along with poor sperm quality, is the cause of infertility in about 20% of couples with fertility problems in the UK. It’s also a contributing factor for another 1 in 4 couples.

What should I do if I think I have low sperm count?

See your GP if you are concerned, particularly if your partner hasn’t managed to conceive after one year of trying for a baby. Doctors will be able to carry out fertility investigations including a semen test to check the quality and quantity of your sperm, as well as any issues with your partner.

Only one sperm is needed to fertilise an egg, so why make so many?

Sperm have such a difficult journey from the woman’s vagina to the fallopian tubes, that only a few survive the trip. Even if a sperm does make it, it still has to penetrate the egg, which is covered by a thick layer of material which makes fertilisation hard. Some researchers believe the difficulty of the process weeds out all but the healthiest sperm and is nature’s way of making sure only the healthiest sperm succeed, with the best chance of producing a healthy baby.

Can I improve sperm health?

Keeping yourself healthy ought to ensure the health of your sperm. Healthy lifestyle choices include:

  • Not smoking, no use of illegal drugs, or in particular, of anabolic steroids
  • Limiting contact with toxic substances such as pesticides or heavy metals
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Eating a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight

Other measures include:

  • Keeping the scrotum area cool (heat hinders sperm production)
  • Avoiding hot baths and hot tubs
  • Choosing boxer shorts over tight underpants and avoiding jeans and other trousers that restrict movement.

How long do sperm live?

This depends on where they are. Inside a woman's body, depending on the conditions, sperm can live for up to 5 days. So, bear in mind you can get a woman pregnant if you have unprotected sex before she ovulates as the sperm may still be alive when she does.

How long can sperm survive outside the body?

Again, this depends on the environment. On a dry surface, like bedclothes or clothing, sperm die before the semen is dry. Sperm can survive longer in a warm bath or hot tub as they thrive in wet environments. However, the chances of getting a woman pregnant this way are very low.

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