Dr Nicole McPherson is a reproductive health expert who studies sperm. We asked her to give us the low down on what everybody should know about sperm health.
1. How often does the human body create sperm?
Men create sperm continuously from puberty until death. From start to finish it takes just over two months (about 64 days) to produce one sperm.
2. Does it help your sperm to ejaculate regularly and if so, how often?
Yes it does, ejaculating frequently every two to five days ensures that the best sperm are used in conception. After about one week sperm have an increased risk of damage due to prolonged storage which can reduce your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy and child.
Beyond fertility, regularly ejaculating (either with a partner or by yourself) is associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer. So get to it.
3. Is there any connection between sperm health, libido and sexual problems?
In some instances there has been correlations between men with infertility or abnormal sperm quality and sexual dysfunction. A reason for this could be because men with altered sperm health tend to have other sometimes undiagnosed health related problems (i.e. type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems etc.) that are also linked with sexual dysfunction. However, a lot of sexual dysfunction can also be psychologically related. It’s best to speak with a health professional if you have any concerns.
4. Does age affect your sperm?
While fertility in men doesn’t rapidly decline like it does with women, changes to men’s fertility have been documented from 40 years onwards. For instance, men aged 40 years or older have a lower chance of conception within one year compared with younger men. Men who are older are also more likely to have increased genetic mutations in their sperm which has been associated with a small but significant increased risk of birth defects and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism in their children.
5. Is sperm health a marker of a person’s overall health?
Poor sperm health can sometimes signal a bigger health problem for men. Many factors that contribute to poor sperm health such as genetic and lifestyle factors are also associated with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular, metabolic and autoimmune diseases. As such, it is important to speak to your doctor if you have any concerns, as sometimes poor sperm quality can indicate another underlying health problem.
6. What myth about sperm health do you most want to set the record straight about?
That trouble conceiving is only a women’s issue. Up to 50 per cent of all couples who have trouble conceiving have a problem with the male.
Further, as sperm are made continuously, men have the real ability to modify the quality of their sperm prior to conception.
7. What’s the best thing people can do to protect or improve their sperm health?
The best things you can do to improve your sperm health are the same things that you can do to improve your overall health. Although, there are some male fertility specific recommendations.
Our top 8 tips are:
- Eat a nutrient-rich diet low in fat and sugar
- Try to exercise at a light to moderate intensity about 150 minutes per week
- Try to reduce or quit smoking
- Reduce your alcohol consumption
- Reduce recreational drug use
- Reduce exposures to toxic chemicals and pollutants
- Be aware of influential factors sometime outside of your control (i.e. age and genetic disorders)
- Frequent ejaculation every two to five days.
8. How does the health of your sperm affect your future child’s health?
The quality of the sperm used at conception can have a profound impact on both growth and disease risk of the subsequent child. For instance, men who carry more fat, are more likely to have sperm with higher levels of DNA damage. These same men also tend to have babies with increased fat mass at birth, increase growth rates into childhood and increased fat mass into adulthood. These associations go beyond that of the shared living environment and hint that something delivered by the sperm at fertilisation contributed to this effect. As such, it is important for men to try and be in optimal health prior to conceiving not only for their own health longevity but for the further health of their child.
9. What is the most surprising thing you ever learnt about sperm?
That they can live in the female reproductive tract for as long as five days and it only takes them between 15-60 min post ejaculations to reach the site of fertilisation.
For more information about healthy sperm, check out our Fertility Week 2022 campaign.
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