5 things you need to know about slow sperm and low egg count
Slow swimmers coupled with low ovarian reserve are hardly crowned as the dream team when trying to conceive. But, with a little help, a podium finish is still possible – sometimes slow and steady can win the race.
If you tuned in to last week’s season premiere of Big Miracles, you’d be well acquainted with Newcastle couple John and Emily – and the tumultuous journey they’ve been on. From John’s hilarious quips (and all-too-relatable commentary on the andrology room) that had us in fits of laughter, to the couple’s real and raw emotions while tackling both male and female factor infertility – we felt it all following their journey all the way to the all-important call.
John and Emily’s beautiful team at HunterIVF, including Fertility Specialist Dr Denise Nesbitt, helped them navigate the ups and downs of conception with slow sperm and low ovarian reserve. Here’s five things you need to know about these challenges!
1. Getting a semen analysis is far more common (and important) than you think
From the unchartered territory of nervously-clutching a plastic dixie cup in a public waiting room, to exiting the room with your sample, getting a semen analysis can seem awkward and even isolating. Though, it’s important to remember that while it might seem this way, around 30% of infertility cases are related to male-factor causes – meaning you’re hardly the first or the last man to have their sperm analysed. Semen analysis is the most important male fertility test, which is essential in determining cause of male-factor infertility by looking at the number of sperm, their motility (ability to move), their morphology (size and shape), and the volume and consistency of the ejaculated sample. Keep in mind that if you have to head down to the clinic to give a sample, that while it may feel embarrassing, you’re doing the best thing for your future family.
2. Low ovarian reserve doesn’t always mean low chance of natural conception
Despite the common perception that low ovarian reserve may significantly reduce the chances of falling pregnant naturally, it's important to acknowledge that fertility is a delicate balance of lots of factors that have to marry together just right. While having a lower ovarian reserve may pose challenges, it doesn't entirely diminish the possibility of natural conception – in fact, if your reserve is low, you have the same chance of falling pregnant naturally as someone with a high reserve. Fertility isn't solely determined by the quantity of eggs but also by their quality. A person with low ovarian reserve can still have viable, healthy eggs capable of successful fertilisation. And, individual reproductive health, hormonal balance, and overall well-being contribute to the equation. It's not just about the ovarian reserve number; it's about the intricate dance of timing, hormonal synchronicity, and the resilience of those determined little swimmers. Therefore, those with low ovarian reserve should hold onto hope, recognising that their chances of falling pregnant naturally can be more nuanced and multifaceted than initially presumed.
3. Lifestyle changes can help your swimmers improve their speed
Sometimes your swimmers just need a little coaching to increase their speed – and thankfully this can be achieved through lifestyle modifications. Trade in the midnight snacks for a buffet of fertility-friendly foods. Introduce a diet rich in fruits, veggies, and with plenty of antioxidants – think berries, leafy greens, salmon, nuts, and seeds. In addition, engage in regular moderate exercise to boost overall cardiovascular health, which can positively impact sperm function. Aim for activities like brisk walking, jogging, or cycling – think of it as cardio workouts for your sperm. And, cut any smoking or drinking of alcohol – these are both big ‘no-no’s’ when trying to improve sperm health.
4. You can’t increase your ovarian reserve, but you can get treatment
Regrettably, Mother Nature hands out eggs like a one-time-only party favour at birth. No secret stash, no coupon for extra eggs – just the original batch. Which means you’re born with all the eggs you’re ever going to have – there’s no magic pill or potion that can increase your reserve. While you can improve the quality of eggs with lifestyle modifications, the quantity won’t increase. Thankfully, in cases of low ovarian reserve you have just as much chance of falling pregnant naturally as someone with a high reserve. Though, fertility treatments such as IVF and ICSI, and egg donation provide viable solutions if falling pregnant naturally isn’t happening for you. Despite persistent challenges, advancements in fertility treatments offer hope, emphasising the importance of consulting with fertility specialists for personalised guidance in addressing low ovarian reserve and associated fertility issues.
5. The earlier you seek help, the better
For couples navigating the realm of slow sperm and a low egg reserve, the importance of seeking help early in their fertility journey cannot be overstated. Time is often of the essence, and consulting with a fertility specialist sooner rather than later can be a game-changer. Fertility experts are equipped with the knowledge and tools to assess the unique dynamics of slow sperm and a low egg reserve, offering tailored guidance and potential interventions. Early intervention allows couples to explore a range of fertility treatments, from lifestyle adjustments and hormonal therapies to advanced assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilisation (IVF). By proactively addressing these challenges, couples can maximise their chances of conception and embark on the path to parenthood with a well-informed and empowered approach. Remember, time might be a tricky opponent, but with the right support, the journey towards building a family becomes a more navigable and hopeful expedition.
Overcoming these hurdles is not only possible but (proved through Emily and John’s story) can often be filled with unexpected moments of humour and resilience. But most importantly, seeking help early in the fertility journey is the key to navigating the challenges of slow sperm and low egg count. Time may be a factor, but armed with knowledge, support, and a touch of humour, the journey to building a family becomes a hopeful and navigable expedition to a podium finish. If you’re ready to get started, get in touch with us on 1800 111 483.