A variety of studies in the past thirty years have been pushing news outlets and reporters to set off alarms to couples trying to conceive. Sperm counts are down, western fertility rates have decreased, and the use of fertility treatments are on the rise--yikes. Scientists and experts say that these variables, overall, are not indicative of an infertility epidemic and are patterns that are likely not affecting couples' ability to get pregnant.
We're here to break down some misconceptions. Here's what we'll discuss:
- Lower sperm counts and fertility
- Increasing usage of fertility treatments and why
- What to do with this information
Does a Lower Sperm Count Mean Decreased Fertility?
A decreased sperm count is only one of many factors that could affect fertility
A variety of studies from North America, Europe, and Australia show that sperm counts in Western countries are declining by up to 59%. The uninformed reader can read this and be worried that a male fertility epidemic in inevitable, but scientists say that even men with low sperm counts are still producing millions of sperm per milliliter of ejaculate. Since it only takes one of these millions of sperm to fertilize an egg, it's more important that sperm are correctly shaped and have proper mobility. Quality--not quantity--is what matters here.
Okay--but Fertility Treatments are still on the Rise?
Shifting demographics and lifestyle changes could be to blame
The correlation of men producing fewer sperm and an increase of fertility treatments sounds scary, but the truth of the matter is that there are a variety of variables influencing a couple's decision to turn to IVF and other treatments to conceive. About 1 in 8 couples in the US struggle with infertility, but only about 30% of these cases are related to male infertility. Because of this, it's important to consider the other lifestyle factors that could affect a couple's decision to seek infertility treatments: female infertility, increasing prevalence and acceptability of gay marriage, or couples waiting longer to start a family.
What do I do now?
Tips on preserving your fertility and dealing with fake fertility news
Since it's clear that the ties between decreasing sperm counts and fertility aren't too much to worry about, here are 3 tips for staying on the right track:
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Obesity, smoking, drinking, and a lack of exercise can have harmful effects on your body and sperm health.
- Stay informed! Read up on fertility news to learn about advancements and trends to help you protect your fertility.
- Contact your doctor with any concerns. Only medical professionals can work with you on your fertility and provide you with insight personalized to you and your partner's body.
Despite a media fire spreading news about western male fertility being at risk, male fertility goes beyond sperm counts. Stay healthy, stay informed, and keep in touch with a doctor about your fertility concerns to ensure you and your partner are reaching your fertility goals.