Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/6/2022
Semen volume: the next inadequacy many men level up to after finally getting over the penis size hurdle.
The quality of your semen volume is arguably more important than penis size, given its importance to fathering a child, whether through natural conception or artificial insemination.
Worried about test results for semen volume? Nervous about the test itself? Just got your results and wondering what they mean? Having questions and concerns like these is very normal. Luckily, in most cases your results can be improved, even if they’re not great.
But before we jump ahead of ourselves, let’s cover some basics to help you understand what this test is all about and what a low semen volume actually means.
Semen volume is important for literally nothing but conception — you need semen volume of a certain level in order to have a healthy chance of conceiving a baby with a partner.
When men ejaculate, the liquid they release is a mixture of spermatozoa and secretions. We can sort of think of it as a sea monkey tank liquid — there are little swimmers suspended in the mixture, and your ejaculate volume can be quantified as a concentration, as a total volume and based on the health and motility of the sperm.
Although semen volume does help the chances of conceiving a baby, it’s actually sperm quality and count that determines your fertility. Low semen volume could — but definitely doesn’t always — mean low fertility. In fact, both higher-than-average and lower-than-average semen volumes have been associated with worse sperm quality in at least one study.
The impact of all of this? About 15 percent of couples experience infertility, and almost a third of these issues are due to infertility from the man. So while your semen volume may not be the deciding factor here, the role it plays in fertility can matter.
Low semen volume, or ejaculatory volume, is a fairly standard concept. For the majority of men, a normal volume of ejaculate will be more than 1.5 ml of total semen. That accounts for the whole load, including the sperm and other fluids.
Previous studies have found that the normal range for this fluid generally falls between 1.5 ml of semen and 4.5 ml of semen in total, with that higher end being three times the minimum “normal” volume.
If you’re anywhere in that range, you’re normal. But even if you’re slightly below that range, there’s a chance you’re normal as well. So let’s talk about some of the reasons why you might have a low semen volume.
One of the first causes of low semen volume, straightforward as it may be, is incomplete semen collection — literally failing to capture everything that came out. As the owner/operator of a penis, chances are you’re familiar with this particular problem.
Aside from “user error” though, the primary cause of low semen volume tends to be a condition called retrograde ejaculation. This is a form of premature ejaculation where you ejaculate but the semen doesn’t come out when you orgasm — instead it goes into your bladder, and can be seen later as part of a urine sample.
If your semen volume is low and has a very low sperm count, this may be a result of genital tract obstructions. These could be caused by a variety of health conditions, including sexually transmitted diseases.
Finally, the most common cause of low sperm count or low sperm volume is testosterone deficiency.
Testosterone deficiency, or “low T” as it is sometimes called, is a condition in which your body doesn’t produce enough of the testosterone hormone. Often, this is a result of a condition called hypogonadism.
These lower levels might also be a result of thyroid function problems, and may correlate with higher levels of prolactin, another type of hormone.
Aside from low semen volumes caused by a very specific surgery or injury (one most guys won’t even allow themselves to imagine) — and of course lower ejaculation volumes as you get older, which is very common — most of these problems are totally reversible.
And if you just missed the collection jar (hey, it happens) you’ll simply have to try aiming better on the next round.
Like we mentioned, sperm quality matters more than semen volume. But if you’re still worried your ejaculation volume is just too low, there are a variety of ways to increase your volume of semen.
In the cases of the obstructions we mentioned, procedures to fix or treat those obstructions, or medications to treat the underlying conditions, will clear the way for a normal semen volume, like a lumberjack kicking the supports out of a beaver dam.
If retrograde ejaculation is your problem, you might want to talk to a doctor about adding a medication like pseudoephedrine, an alpha antagonist. A study, albeit one with a small sample size, found that using it prior to having sex can increase semen volume. Some doctors also recommend using erectile dysfunction drugs like sildenafil (also known as Viagra) off-label for low semen volume.
Another tip: you may want to lay off of sexual activity and sexual stimulation, and take a couple days of abstinence before a test; daily ejaculations aren’t exactly bad for your health, but expelling all your semen during ejaculation the night before, only to get up bright and early for a test is going to result in low-volume ejaculate. Common sense.
An even easier way to increase semen volume? Try replacing some of your daily coffee intake with water. Dehydration and a high daily caffeine intake can both lead to a decrease in semen volume.
You might also want to consider some dietary supplements. Low levels of zinc — a crucial mineral for the normal working of your reproductive system — can cause low semen volumes and sperm counts, so consider adding a daily vitamin or foods high in zinc.
Finally, if your level of testosterone is low, one treatment option may be to supplement your testosterone production with vitamins, supporting foods, or hormone replacement therapy. Learn more about these things in our guide to increasing testosterone.
Of course, you might be worried about sperm motility and count too, if you have a low semen volume. To increase sperm count, experts recommend you pay attention to lifestyle changes that can be made and habits that can be modified. Smoking and alcohol intake, bad diet and a lack of exercise can lower sperm counts, testosterone levels and semen volume, as can conditions like obesity and frequent use of lubricants with toxic properties, like alcohol.
They might also have you keep an eye on your hot tub and sauna time — temperatures can affect your swimmers, and you’ll want to protect your scrotal temperature to optimize your sperm concentration.
If you’re worried about low semen volume, you’re probably in pursuit of pregnancy, and it can cause a bit of a panic to think that you might have trouble getting things started.
Even if you’ve avoided the panic spiral, you may have a lot of questions.
The good news is that many of your concerns (and even some of the bad news you might have gotten) doesn’t mean that all hopes of a pregnancy are lost.
If you’re worried about your semen volume for any reason, with or without test results to back those fears up, talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns.
They’ll be able to guide you to treatment options, help you understand the state of your equipment and its production and explain any other important variables to you, all of which can help get your semen volume and quality back up.
It may be awkward to talk about, but it’s even more awkward to avoid the problem indefinitely. Get some help today.