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Men’s Sperm Quality Declines with Age

Adapted from University of Otago research published in the Ageing Research Reviews.

While advancing female age is well known to have negative effects on fertility, reproductive success, and the health of offspring, the influence of male age on a couple’s fertility has been less defined.

Older males contribute to increased risk of obstetric complications, miscarriage, and offspring disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.

Using data from 90 world-wide studies (93,839 subjects), University of Otago researchers conducted a systematic review and analysis to quantify the effect of male age on seven ejaculate traits: semen volume, sperm concentration, total sperm count, sperm morphology, total motility, progressive motility, and DNA fragmentation.

The review found consistent age-related declines in semen volume, sperm motility, and increases in malformed and DNA-damaged sperm. Unexpectedly, sperm concentration did not decline with increasing male age.

Some of the reviewed well-controlled studies have observed consistent declines in semen quality with increasing age, whereas others project declines after age 35 for some traits and after age 40 for others.

The review concluded that assessing the percentage of DNA-fragmented sperm cells and sperm motility may lead to better patient outcomes during fertility treatments (excluding In Vitro Fertilization) of ageing couples.

These factors are likely more accurate and consistent predictors of a man’s fertility status than commonly measured traits such as semen volume, sperm concentration, and total sperm count.

November 2015

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