Oligospermia, also known as low sperm count, or a less than normal amount of sperm present in the ejaculate, is diagnosed through semen analysis. Other similar issues – such as low sperm motility (movement), abnormal sperm shape (morphology) or low sperm progression (speed) – can also occur and make achieving pregnancy through intercourse difficult.

Low sperm count can have a number of possible causes, including:


  • Varicocele
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Infection
  • Genetic factors
  • Tumor
  • Certain medications
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Overheating the testicles

Understanding the cause of low sperm count is important in determining the best treatment options. Treatments can include medical therapy to treat infections, hormone replacement therapy or surgical options.

Zero Sperm Count

Azoospermia, also known as zero sperm count, means that sperm are not present in the ejaculate. There are two types:

  • Non-obstructive azoospermia is the most common type and means there is a problem with sperm production.
  • Obstructive azoospermia, means sperm is being produced, but there is an obstruction or blockage of the reproductive tract.

Depending on the cause and type of azoospermia, the blockage may be corrected surgically, or a method of sperm retrieval may be used.

Sperm Retrieval Procedures

For men who have no sperm present in the ejaculate, several types of minimally invasive surgical procedures are available to extract sperm from the testicles.

Some common procedures include:

  • Testicular Mapping – Also known as fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy of the testicle, testicular mapping is a non-surgical method of determining the extent of azoospermia and the presence of sperm.
  • Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA) – This minimally invasive approach uses a tiny needle passed into the epididymis to retrieve sperm. It is most often used with men with obstructive azoospermia, such as after a vasectomy.
  • Microsurgical Testicular Sperm Extraction (microTESE)
  • Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA)