Age related male infertility – does sperm quality suffer?
Men might not feel the age-related pressure to start a family, and can rest assured that they will continue to produce sperm until their dying day.
In fact, sperm may actually stay alive for a short period of time even after the heart stops beating. Regardless, your fertility doctor will caution you against waiting too long to start a family.
- Age-related male infertility can become a factor when sperm quality and quantity decline over time.
- The gradual process called andropause (which has some similarities to menopause in women) may also bring about an increase in erectile dysfunction.
- Low testosterone levels (hypogonadism), and deterioration of testicular tissue and tubes that carry sperm, can interfere with conception for older men.
From one year to another, you may not notice any performance issues, or difference in the volume of ejaculatory fluids. However, the question that researchers and fertility doctors recently addressed relates to the quality of sperm in the ejaculate.
Is 60-year-old sperm genetically identical to 20-year-old sperm?
Although the criteria that fertility doctors use to assess sperm within an ejaculate may fall within an acceptable range, significant deterioration may nevertheless be taking place within the sperm cells themselves. Research shows that in addition to a decline in sperm count and sperm motility, the DNA that makes up older sperm cells begins to break down around age 40.
Male reproduction and the sperm life cycle
To better understand the effects of age-related male infertility, please review the following information provided by the board-certified reproductive endocrinologists at Texas Fertility Center:
- A man begins producing sperm during puberty, and continues to produce sperm throughout the rest of his life.
- Signals from the pituitary gland in the hypothalamus instruct the testes to produce testosterone, manufacture and store sperm and make seminal fluid.
- Delicate organs within the male reproductive tract (testes, epididymis, seminal vesicles, prostate gland) must operate at peak efficiency to prepare, transport and ejaculate sperm during intercourse.
- For successful conception to occur, the sperm must be plentiful to increase the odds that one will move toward and penetrate the waiting egg.
- The sperm’s DNA must be chromosomally intact to produce a healthy baby.
Studies link sperm quality to birth defects
While age-related male infertility may not prevent you from impregnating your partner, you may want to know about risks related to conception in your later years. As sperm ages, genetic changes (mutations) may occur on a more frequent basis. This leads to an increase in the number of chromosomally abnormal sperm – which tend to not be able to fertilize an egg with the same efficiency as chromosomally normal sperm. On rare occasions, abnormal sperm do fertilize an egg – potentially leading to a greater risk for some of the following health disorders in the offspring of men over the age of 40:
- Apert’s syndrome
- Recurrent miscarriage
An American Journal of Gynecology study concluded that the odds for age-related male infertility increase each year, and the chance of getting your partner pregnant drop 11 percent with each passing year after age 40. (Study participants were actively pursuing fertility treatment.)
Age-related infertility may coincide with a host of health-related issues, including:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Urological disorders
- Chronic conditions such as hypertension or diabetes
- Psychological syndromes such a depression
In general, a man’s fertility is connected to his overall health. If you are an aging male and take good care of yourself, chances are you will not experience age-related infertility.
Contact the male fertility specialists at Texas Fertility Center to address your concerns. We understand the sensitive nature of male infertility and will help optimize your chances for getting pregnant with basic fertility treatment or advanced techniques for men with severe male infertility.
TFC Video: Male Infertility
How Do You Treat Male Infertility? Dr. Kaylen Silverberg discusses the best treatment options when facing male infertility.
Watch more TFC videos in our education center
TFC Ovation Research : Male Infertility
Chizhong Wang*, Ji-won Choi*, Leonardo F. Urbanoy†, Puneet Massonz‡, Matthew VerMilyea§, and Moshe Kam*; Tracking of Human Sperm in Time-Lapse Images. *Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, USA, †70 Beharrel St., Concord, MA, USA, ‡Penn Fertility Care, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA, §Ovation Fertility, Austin, TX, USA.