Is There a Male Infertility Crisis?
A study published in July announced that male sperm counts are on the decline in Western countries, leading to headline after headline proclaiming that a male fertility crisis had hit the United States. For the most part, these headlines are hyperbolic and should be taken with a grain of salt. Although there may not be a crisis in our midst, that doesn’t mean the study shouldn’t be taken seriously.
What does the study say?
The study, published by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, showed that male sperm count decreased by 52% in Western countries between 1973 and 2011. The study does note the difficulty in measuring sperm count across countries, but found that there was a possible connection between regions where the birth rate had decreased and regions where male fertility was also believed to have decreased.
So, why are male sperm counts declining?
There is currently no definitive reason known for the decline in male fertility, but health experts do have some solid leads. Lifestyle factors are of concern to all couples who experience difficulty conceiving, for both partners. Men may be surprised to learn that parts of their normal routine could interfere with fertility, and physicians should emphasize the importance of a healthy lifestyle for long-term health and conception. Lifestyle factors include:
• Medications. Certain medications may affect hormones, which impact sperm count. Other medications can make it difficult to achieve and maintain an erection.
• Heavy alcohol use.
• Illegal drug use.
• Excessive physical activity.
There are also medical conditions that can negatively affect male fertility:
Should I be worried?
As scientists work through the specific causes for the decline in male fertility across Western countries, most men will find their lives entirely unaffected – unless they struggle to conceive. Infertility issues occur in 1 in 8 American couples, so you and your partner may already know another couple facing fertility treatment. It’s important to be aware of when you should seek fertility testing, so as not to delay recommended treatment.
• If the female partner is under the age of 35, couples are advised to wait until they have tried to conceive for over a year without success.
• If the female partner is age 35 or older, couples are advised to wait no more than six months after trying to conceive without success.
Are you interested in male fertility testing? Please contact the Male Fertility & Sexual Medicine Specialists today to schedule an appointment.