When talking about infertility the female factor is what is most talked about. We usually focus on different reasons why women do not get pregnant and we forget about the fact that approximately 40-50% of all infertility cases are caused by the male factor.
When discussing infertility, the male factor should also be considered.
Some known facts affecting male fertility are: low sperm concentration, poor sperm motility and/or abnormal morphology. But what about the age of men? Does the age impact male fertility as well? The answer is yes, it absolutely does. We used to think that only women were impacted by age. But we are beginning to understand that male fertility could also be affected by age.
How does age impact male infertility?
The male body continuously produces sperm. However, the proportion of fast-moving sperm which is critical for egg fertilization decreases by nearly one percent every year. Males between the ages of 30-35 have the highest quantity of sperm, whereas men over the age of 55 have the lowest. Men whose sperm at a young age is already at the lower end of the established “normal” parameters, will very likely have a lower number of fast- moving sperm when they get older.
In a 50-year-old man, about 600 cell divisions have already taken place from the stem cell that creates the sperm and the risk of genomic malformations increases with every further division. For this reason the risk of disease, increases as well. At the same time, when men age, their cellular repair mechanisms that normally correct such errors, also fail more frequently. As a result, the risk of illnesses such as point mutation increase as well.
Scientists have reported that older men are not only at risk of infertility. They are also more likely to have an effect on miscarriages or pass on genetic problems to their children.
Although it is more widely accepted and known that the woman’s age is a decisive factor in infertility, especially after 35, research is beginning to show that men’s age is also something to take into consideration. A combination of female and male age can also further increase the risk of birth defects, such as Down syndrome. For this reason our doctors at ProcreaTec recommend Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT) to male patients who are 50 or over, when intending to use their sperm. This technique analyses the genetics of an embryo to ensure that only genetically healthy embryos are transferred. This test can minimize the number of embryo transfers that could lead to implantation failure miscarriages, and thus can help couples achieve a pregnancy in less time.
Other factors men should be aware of
Besides age, a man’s ability to conceive can also be hindered by an unhealthy lifestyle. Being overweight or underweight affect male infertility, as it can cause the sperm to move slower. It is also highly recommendable to avoid alcohol, cigarettes and stress while trying to achieve a pregnancy.
Something else to avoid is wearing tight-fitting legwear, as sperm maturation and sperm production can be interrupted. Some studies have shown that tight clothing and underwear that keep testicles closer to body heat might affect the sperm count, as the testicles are supposed to be at a lower temperature than the rest of the body. When wearing tight legwear, especially tight-fitting underwear, which pushes the testicles to the inside of the thigh, or raises them to perineal areas, affects both the production and maturation of sperm and thus, should be avoided.
Infertility can have multiple causes and it is not about blaming one another, but about supporting each other throughout the process. Understanding, patience and open conversation are especially important at this time. Professional psychological support can be helpful when trying to better understand the causes of male infertility and finding alternatives to achieve the pregnancy goal.