A recent article published in GQ magazine titled “Sperm Count Zero” discussed the possibility that within a generation we may lose the ability to reproduce entirely due to declining sperm counts. But, is male infertility really increasing or are we simply more aware of it due to advances in medical research, technology and information sharing in the digital age. Here’s what we know:
Male Factor Infertility
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a male factor is identified along with a female factor in approximately 35% of couples with infertility. In an estimated 8% of cases, a male factor is the only identifiable cause.
Male factor infertility may refer to low sperm count (oligospermia), no sperm count (azoospermia) or decreased sperm motility (asthenospermia).
While it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of infertility, the most common causes of infertility in men include disruption of testicular or ejaculatory function such as from trauma to the testes or use of certain medications or supplements, hormonal disorders, or genetic disorders.
Despite the significant role of male factor in infertility, advances in therapeutic options have vastly improved the chances for men to conceive their own biological offspring.
Trends to watch
Treatment options aside, the article in GQ argues that the decreases in sperm counts in recent decades are too significant to ignore. Summarizing a study published by researchers from Hebrew University and Mount Sinai medical school, it states that sperm counts in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand have fallen by more than 50 percent over the past four decades.
The data from the rest of the world was determined to be insufficient to draw conclusions from, but there are studies suggesting that the trend could be worldwide.
Furthermore, the study showed that the human race is apparently on a trend line toward becoming unable to reproduce itself.
A team of epidemiologists, clinicians, and researchers extracted data from 185 studies, which examined semen from almost 43,000 men. What they learned was that sperm counts went from 99 million sperm per milliliter of semen in 1973 to 47 million per milliliter in 2011, and the decline has been accelerating. Should the trend continue, it could bring us all the way to zero.
According to Hagai Levine, a lead author of the study, “We should hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And that is the possibility that we will become extinct.”
There is such an emphasis on female reproductive health, but the bottom line is that male reproductive health is essential to the survival of our species and that the issue deserves acknowledgment, funding, and further research.
Marc Goldstein, a urologist and surgeon at Weill Cornell medical center in New York City, said that while there was “no question I’ve seen a big increase in men with male-factor infertility,” he wasn’t worried for the future of the species. He was confident that assisted reproduction would keep the babies coming, no matter how sickly men’s sperm become.
An important takeaway of the article was that advances in fertility treatment will be a significant determinant of how long we are able to outrun the drop in sperm count.
How Carolinas Fertility Institute Can Help
If you are concerned about your ability to conceive naturally, schedule an appointment for a fertility evaluation at Carolinas Fertility Institute. CFI has three, fully-staffed offices in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Charlotte, North Carolina to best serve your needs.