sperm running toward an egg

Does sperm quality change with age?

Dr. Muthoni Mwangi
There’s a common belief that most men can fertilize an egg at any age, but there’s little conversation about how sperm quality changes as men age. Let’s talk about it…

In recent years, more people have been having children later in life due to various reasons, such as late marriage and increased use of contraceptives. Changing roles for women have also contributed to older age at first pregnancy.

But, how does aging affect your sperm?

Sperm count decreases with age. This means that the concentration of sperm in semen will decrease as you age.

Aging affects both sexual organs and the male hormone system, subsequently impacting fertility and sperm. Hormone Testosterone levels drop with age, along with the active cells in the testicles. Blood flow to the testes decreases as blood vessels age.

An enlarged prostate can reduce semen volume and affect ejaculation. Aging leads to lower semen quality, daily sperm production, total sperm count, and viability. The body’s antioxidant capacity declines with age, causing oxidative damage to sperm DNA, which reduces sperm fertilization capacity and increases sperm death.

Older sperm are more likely to carry genetic mutations, leading to higher chances of pregnancy loss and gene mutations in the child.

Lifestyle factors affecting young males

While increasing age can lead to declining male fertility, several factors cause infertility in young males, including cigarette smoking, sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical activity), alcohol intake, use of recreational drugs, excessive caffeine intake, and obesity.

Obesity negatively affects male fertility. Even young males in their 20s struggle with infertility due to obesity.

Can children born of older men be affected?

Older men are more likely to produce sperm with mutations, increasing the risk of offspring with metabolic, psychiatric (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), and neurodevelopmental concerns like autism. Sperm DNA mutations in older men are also linked to chromosomal abnormalities.

Is there help?

Yes. The field of medicine has advanced and the below solutions are available:

  • Assisted Reproductive Techniques: In couples undergoing assisted reproductive techniques, paternal age affects fertility outcomes, including decreased success rates and higher risks of preterm birth.
  • Addressing Infertility: For males concerned about infertility, if a sperm analysis test is abnormal, lifestyle changes should be observed. The test can then be repeated in 2-3 weeks.

Remember, while men produce sperm throughout their lives, age, and lifestyle choices can greatly impact sperm quality and fertility. Taking proactive steps today can help ensure healthier outcomes for future generations.

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