Low Sperm Count & Motility (OATS)

Low Sperm Count & Motility (OATS)


Oligoasthenoteratozoospermia, usually shortened to OATS, is a condition characterised by low sperm count and low sperm motility in men. In addition, the sperm may also be irregularly shaped. OATS is one of the primary causes of male-factor infertility. The condition could be caused by aging, hereditary factors, strenuous physical activity, obesity, alcohol consumption or overheating of the testes. The testes may also have lost their ability to function normally due to disease and this could result in OATS.

Signs and symptoms

A patient who suffers from OATS is unable to produce a child. They may also experience a whitish discharge from the penis, increased body hair and growth of breast tissue. There may also be a mass or swelling on the scrotum.

Causes and Risk Factors

The factors contributing to OATS can be broadly broken down into four categories – Genetic, lifestyle, testicular factors and testicular ejaculatory dysfunction. The genetic factors include defects in the sperm DNA, Y-chromosome defects and Klinefelter syndrome. Lifestyle factors that could contribute to OATS include high alcohol consumption, use of recreational drugs and smoking. Overheating the testes by taking many hot baths and showers, wearing tight briefs or overexerting yourself at the gym can also lower sperm count and motility. Drastic weight fluctuations, being overweight and being underweight can also contribute to OATS. Testicular factors that could contribute to OATS include testicular cancer, testicular trauma, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, ageing, enlargement of a varicocele and past infection of certain diseases such as mumps, malaria or syphilis. Testicular ejaculatory dysfunction refers to a set of conditions that obstruct the flow of semen through the male reproductive tract. This includes, erectile dysfunction, hypospadias, impotence, obstruction of the vas deferens, inflammation of the prostate or retrograde ejaculation, where semen is redirected to the bladder.


OATS and the inability to have a child could cause mental trauma, amplified by social rejection. The patient is recommended to seek mental health care from a licensed professional to cope.


The fertility expert will investigate a number of factors before they can arrive at a conclusive diagnosis. The process begins with a detailed personal and family medical history, a physical exam, blood tests and semen analysis. The doctor will also require a scrotal ultrasound and genetic testing. If the doctor identifies, low sperm motility, low sperm count and abnormal sperm shape, then the patient may be diagnosed with OATS.


OATS causes a majority of cases of male infertility. Cases of OATS caused by lifestyle factors respond very well to treatment and can be reversed. Many such couples go on to have natural, healthy pregnancies. The patient may be treated with medication and lifestyle changes. Some cases may also require surgical intervention. If the doctors feel that the condition cannot be reversed, they may recommend sperm extraction and IVF.


In general, it is advised to reduce the consumption of stimulants, avoid overheating the testes and maintain a healthy weight to reduce your risk of OATS.

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A consultation with our panel of doctors, specialists and surgeons will help you determine what kind of services you may need to help diagnose and treat your condition. If you or someone in your family or friend’s circle are facing any health issues, please get in touch with us, we are here for you.