Sensationalist media sometimes even call it ‘the end of civilisation’ which is nothing more than scaremongering, but the question does remain …. “have sperm counts declined?”
This question has been a controversial question, and the first time it was mentioned was in 1992, where it was suggested that there is a genuine decline in sperm quality over the past 50 years. This controversy has progressed unabated and has never been answered due to the lack of proper studies which have been conducted.
The reason why it’s important is that sperm counts are linked to male fertility, and semen analysis may be the only accepted way of assessing, or rather being the first stance of assessing male infertility. There are reports that suggested the economic burden that male infertility gives. It is also known that these sperm counts are the cause of male infertility and also the cause of multiple environmental factors such as endocrine disrupting chemicals, pesticides, heat, lifestyle factors, diet, stress, smoking, body mass index, all may be responsible for a decline in sperm counts.
In one of the largest systematic reviews done, published in Human Reproduction Update in November 2017, a team looked at 2510 full articles and looked at a huge number of studies between 1973 and 2011. This statistical evaluation reported a significant decline in sperm counts between 1973 and 2011, driven by a 50 to 60 per cent decline among men unselected by fertility from northern Europe to America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The research also indicated that there is no evidence of levelling off which means of slowing down of that declining trend.
The causes which could be environmental or lifestyle in early childhood as well as in adult life, the endocrine disruption that comes in men from chemical exposures or maternal smoking during the critical times of male reproductive development, the exposure to pesticides that may have a role in adult life. The worrying factor is that we don’t know. At present, research is inadequate, but it is concerning that sperm counts are declining. A more robust long-term study is needed, and while this is on, it may be time to improve on how men look at health.
If you are considering starting a family it is worth the male partner doing the following:
If any medications are being taken they should be reviewed with a doctor.