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Can Sperm Go Bad?

Fertility issues are often be viewed as the woman’s responsibility; however, only 40 percent of infertility is due to female factor. The cause of infertility break down is 40 percent female factor, 40 percent male factor, 10 percent a combination of male and female factor, and 10 percent unknown. A primary reason behind male infertility is due to poor sperm quantity and quality, which can be negatively affected by extreme temperatures, smoking, drug use, and poor diet. In a recent Romper article, the power of seminal fluid was discussed, as well as the question: can sperm go bad?

Causes of Decreased Male Fertility

Millions of sperm are produced by men every day and it takes sperm around 74 days to fully mature. Sperm are living cells within the testicle, and are subject to the same conditions and insults the rest of the body is trying to manage. Sperm health and reproductive potential are linked to good overall health, so the lifestyle choices that would benefit a man’s overall health dovetail nicely with good choices for his reproductive health as well.

The pathway for a sperm to find an egg is essentially a race through an obstacle course. At every step along the way there is an anatomic or functional hurdle that the sperm has to overcome to continue the journey. From the point of ejaculation on the cervix to the final step of fertilizing an egg, only the strongest and luckiest sperm make it through. There is significant attrition of sperm along the way. Therefore, starting the race with as much sperm as possible is critical to achieving a successful pregnancy.

For most men with normal sperm counts, an everyday frequency of ejaculation should not result in significantly lower numbers of ejaculated sperm. In some men, however, who have low sperm counts, spacing intercourse and ejaculation out every 2 to 3 days allows for better chances of achieving a pregnancy.

The effects of older paternal age on sperm and a man’s reproductive capacity are very active areas of current research. Men, like women, go through a reproductive and hormonal decline as they age, but this change is drawn out over many years. Even though new sperm are constantly manufactured, older paternal age seems to be associated with a longer time to conception as well as an increase in behavioral disorders on the autism spectrum.

Does sperm go bad?

Does sperm go bad? In a word, no. Despite the added challenges in achieving pregnancy and the higher risk of autism spectrum disorders, most older fathers go on to achieve normal pregnancies in a timely manner. The central theme of earlier testing and urologic evaluation can improve a couple’s chances of success.

A semen analysis is often recommended to evaluate a man’s reproductive potential. The parameters that are evaluated are the volume, concentration, pH (level of acidity), motility, progression, consistency, shape, total motile sperm count, and the presence or absence of white, red blood cells, or immature sperm. At Shady Grove Fertility, we are proud to have a full-time, board certified, fellowship trained reproductive urologist on our medical team to help diagnose, treat, and overcome male factor infertility.

Medical contribution by Paul Shin, M.D., Shady Grove Fertility’s Board Certified Urologist.

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