If you’re a man with a less than average sperm count, you’re not alone. Male infertility is the reason behind difficulties with conception in a third of all couples trying to conceive, and some 7% of all men are infertile.
However, having a low sperm count isn’t necessarily a permanent or hopeless situation. Using research-backed supplements to increase sperm count can help to ease the difficulties of trying to conceive, giving you a reason to be more confident and optimistic about your chances for having children.
What Causes a Low Sperm Count?
Having a low sperm count, also known as oligospermia, is one of the most common causes of male infertility. A sperm count is considered to be low if it is less than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen, with the average sperm count being about 75 million sperm per milliliter.
Generally speaking, there are a number of potential causes for a low sperm count, which basically fall into three categories: medical reasons, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors.
Some circumstances that could increase your risk include being obese or overweight, having had an injury or surgery of (or near) the testicles, and/or using using certain medications. Other contributing factors that could put you at a higher risk include prolonged exposure of your testicles to excessive heat, or other medical-related issues.
The Top Supplements to Boost Male Fertility
For men facing the difficulties that come with having a low sperm count, supplementation may be helpful. Besides following a sperm-healthy diet, a good regimen of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other supplements can make a big difference, increasing the odds that you’ll be able to bring a son or daughter into the world.
And while only a sperm count test administered by a doctor can determine some of these causes, supplementation can make a dramatic difference for many men in need of a fertility treatment.
Based on extensive research, testing, and reviews, here is our list of the top 8 supplements that have been shown to help boost sperm count, sperm health and motility.
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant which may protect sperm from damage. In fact, research has shown that men who supplemented with 1,000 mg of vitamin C twice daily for two months noticed a 100% increase in sperm count and motility, and the number of sperm cells with a healthy morphology increased by 50%.
Further research showed that men with infertility who were took 250mg of vitamin C twice per day for three months had a dramatic improvement in normal motility and morphology compared to the participants who didn’t take vitamin C.
2. Vitamin E
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is also an antioxidant that can prevent damage to sperm caused by free radicals. Commonly used in combination with other supplements, vitamin E supplementation is linked with enhanced sperm motility, morphology, and health.
While vitamin E is believed to have positive effects on reproductive health by itself, most research looking at how it affects male fertility have used it in combination with other antioxidants, like CoQ10 or selenium.
For instance, in one study of men taking 400 mg of vitamin E with 225 ug of selenium over a 90-day period, the signs of oxidative stress were shown to be greatly decreased in seminal plasma. In a research study review looking at the impact of antioxidant supplements on sperm health concluded that taking a combination of vitamins E and C was highly effective in preventing damage to sperm DNA.
Zinc is a major contributor to male reproductive health. Men who supplement with zinc have been shown to experience increases in sperm volume and motility, and healthy morphology.
Typically thought of as one of the fundamental components to male fertility, zinc is plays a role in a number of vital reproductive processes, including the production of sperm (spermatogenesis) and testosterone. A zinc deficiency could harm sperm production and lower testosterone levels, and might also lead to a variety of sperm abnormalities.
Research has shown that the amount of zinc found in the semen of infertile men is much lower than that found in men with no fertility issues. In addition, supplementing with zinc has been associated with a major increase in semen volume, sperm motility, while preventing abnormal sperm morphology.
4. Folic Acid
Folate is vital to reproductive health since it is necessary for sperm production and development. Increasing folate by taking folic acid (the form of folate found in supplements) may dramatically boost sperm concentration.
Folate is a type of B-vitamin that is crucial to a large number of bodily processes, and is often associated with pregnancy due to its necessity in the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. But, it also an extremely important nutrient in the production and development of sperm, and makes an excellent male fertility supplement.
A review of research studies showed that folic acid supplementation was associated with greater sperm concentrations in men who were experiencing fertility issues. This benefit was even more pronounced when combined with zinc, and those participants who took both nutrients experienced better morphology as well.
The use of selenium as a male fertility supplement isn’t something that’s new, and there are reasons for its popularity. There is convincing evidence that selenium, either taken by itself or combined with vitamins C and E, can increase sperm count, motility, and morphology.
Selenium is an important trace mineral that’s involved in metabolic function as well as reproductive health. Previous research has examined the combination of selenium with vitamins A, E, and C, and observed positive affects on fertility.
However, a more recent study sought to evaluate the effects of selenium supplementation when used alone. Men with infertility were given 50 micrograms of selenium once daily for 90 days and were shown to have a noticeable increase in sperm count, motility, and morphology afterwards.
Furthermore, researchers observed increased levels of testosterone and glutathione (a potent antioxidant), which could provide a further benefit to fertility.
6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3’s are are associated with a wide range of health benefits, including everything from preventing heart disease to improving eyesight. Found mainly in fish and grass-fed animals, omega-3s are vital for the proper function of the body.
Omega-3’s are also essential for improving antioxidant activity in the semen, and provide important support to the health of cell membranes.
A study from 2010 examined the link between both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and male infertility due to unknown causes. The results showed that infertile men had a higher omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio, and that lower omega-3 levels were associated with lower sperm quality.
A different study showed that omega-3 supplementation over a 32-week period resulted in significant improvements in sperm concentrations.
A more recent review of omega-3’s effects on male fertility looked at research on infertile men given EPA and DHA supplements. It was concluded that omega-3 supplementation greatly increased sperm motility, and that increased amounts of DHA in the semen provided a protective benefit for the sperm.
CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) plays a vital part in the health of the body. It is crucial for metabolic function, and is also a very powerful antioxidant. It’s frequently used to treat cardiovascular conditions, and has been studied for its effects on Parkinson’s disease, cancer, migraines, and more.
Sperm cells use CoQ10 for energy. Sperm are also highly vulnerable to free radical damage, and it’s thought that anywhere from 30–80% of men experiencing infertility issues might be the result of oxidative stress.
Studies have demonstrated the effects of CoQ10 on men with infertility and observed a dramatic rise in both motility and fertilization rates. A recent studies review showed that sperm motility and concentration saw significant increases after the use of CoQ10 supplements for several weeks.
8. D-Aspartic Acid
Different from aspartic acid, D-aspartic acid (or D-AA) is an amino acid that’s found in certain cells and tissues in the body, including the testicles and sperm cells. Some research indicates that D-aspartic aced may be useful as a male fertility supplement, although further studies need to be conducted.
Some research has observed lower levels of D-aspartic acid in the semen of infertile men compared to healthy samples. It’s believed that this may be due to the effect that D-aspartic acid has on testosterone levels, as it appears to play a part in production and release of testosterone – which can create a powerful impact on reproductive health.
For example, research has demonstrated that D-aspartic acid supplementation for three months substantially increased sperm concentration and motility – almost doubling concentration and increasing motility by over 50%. In the end, these numbers resulted in improved pregnancy rates in the participants’ partners.
L-arginine is an amino acid involved in the synthesis of proteins, and is found in a variety of foods, including red meat, fish, poultry, and nuts. For the majority of the population, the L-arginine naturally found in food is sufficient for health, but for men experiencing a low sperm count, supplementation can deliver positive results.
L-arginine is a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes and widens the blood vessels, enhancing the flow of blood throughout the body. Studies indicate that l-arginine may act in a number of positive ways that impact male fertility. In the body, it converts into nitric oxide, which enhances sperm function.
Ashwagandha is known as an adaptogen, which is an herb shown to help resist stress in the body and promote healing. It’s use has been associated with a number of health benefits, but one of the most significant is its impact on testosterone.
Ashwagandha can substantially increase testosterone levels, perhaps due to an ability to boost the activity of the body’s natural antioxidants. This trait is what makes it a valuable male fertility supplement.
Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) are necessary for stimulating the production of sperm and testosterone in the testes. Research has shown that supplementing with ashwagandha can increase the amounts of testosterone, LH, and FSH found in the semen.
Different studies demonstrated that men taking 675 mg of ashwagandha per day for three months boosted both testosterone and LH levels. Sperm count was increased by nearly 170%, sperm motility by 57%, and semen volume by over 50%.
An herb that’s frequently used in cooking, fenugreek has powerful medicinal properties, and is often used as an ingredient in many male fertility supplements. Fenugreek seed extracts have demonstrated to have a substantial impact on the regulation of hormones and on reproductive health.
Research conducted on a type of extract made from fenugreek seeds (Furosap) examined its effects on sperm cells and testosterone levels. Men who supplemented with 500 mg daily for 3 months saw a 46% boost in free testosterone, and positive benefits to sperm count and morphology as well.
A different study looking at another type of fenugreek extract (Testofen) found that testosterone levels, sexual function, and libido had all increased in older men who supplemented with 600 mg for three months.
12. Tribulus Terrestris
Tribulus terrestris has been used for centuries in traditional medicine as an aphrodisiac to stimulates sex drive and libido. While this alone can increase your chances of conceiving, tribulus can also be used as a supplement to boost sperm health (including sperm count, motility, and morphology), as well enhance the effects of testosterone.
One review examined multiple clinical studies, and found that using tribulus terrestris was effective at increasing the numbers, movement, and shape of the sperm cells of men with infertility.
13. Maca Root
The maca root, which comes from Peru, has a long history of use in cooking and in medicine, and has traditionally been taken for its nutritional value and as a natural aphrodisiac. Maca root can also be helpful as a supplement to increase sperm count and motility after 3 months of use.
A study gave men 1,750 mg of maca for three months to examine its effects on fertility. Researchers observed that both sperm concentration and motility saw a gradual increase throughout the study, but no substantial change in overall hormone levels.