It’s official: human sperm counts are in a state of long-term decline.
A national medical journal recently published a review of male fertility data that found that between 1973 and 2013, sperm counts have decreased by around 50 percent.
So is it time to panic?
What’s causing the decline?
There are several reasons that human sperm counts have declined. Here are a couple of the best guesses:
- Obesity: It’s no secret that obesity is a significant problem in the United States. However, you might not know that obesity has a negative influence on both male and female fertility. When men are overweight, their estrogen levels rise, which decreases the sperm count. Additionally, men who are obese could experience more warming of their scrotal area, which could negatively impact sperm development.
- Environmental Factors: Certain chemicals found in our everyday lives interfere with fertility. Pharmaceuticals, different pesticides, dioxins…all of these substances can negatively affect our reproductive health.
How can men preserve their fertility?
It’s important for men to regularly administer self-testicular exams and to keep up with regular appointments to ensure that everything is okay. If you have been struggling to get a woman pregnant for over a year, you might want to get a fertility evaluation.
Ideally, potential fertility problems can be spotted early in adolescents. For example, pediatricians can spot early signs of Klinefelter syndrome, which could impact later fertility, during puberty. If you are a parent, it is essential to keep up with your child’s pediatrician appointments.
What treatments are available to improve male fertility?
There are a variety of methods to treat male infertility, with the kind of treatment depending specifically on the cause. Sometimes simple lifestyle changes can positively improve reproductive health, such as losing weight or avoiding high heat exposure. You might also be put on medication if it is a hormonal issue. Surgery may be required if it’s an anatomical problem.
What the future holds
While sperm counts are on the decline, the information published in the recent study suggests that on average there are 47 million sperm per milliliter of ejaculate (the normal range is anything greater than 15 million). This means that despite the decrease of overall sperm counts, your chances of conception haven’t disappeared. People are still getting pregnant and you can increase your own chances by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and educating yourself on what could be impacting your fertility.