Alarming new research published in the journal Human Reproduction Update finds that Western men's sperm counts are plunging, with 52 percent seeing a decline in concentration of sperm, and nearly 60 percent seeing a decline in their actual count over the past four decades.
The findings are the result of Dr. Hagai Levine of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his team looking at more than 185 studies, including close to 43,000 men in 50 countries. And what's most interesting is that while men in the U.S., Europe, and Australia showed significant declines in both concentration and count, those living South America, Asia and Africa did not. Which leaves one question: Why?
Unfortunately, this research cannot answer that question definitively, although Levine posits it could have something to do with chemical exposure, even as early as in the womb. Other possible causes include obesity and climate change. But we don't know for sure, and there's not much we can do to stop global warming in its tracks in time for our next ovulation cycle!
So here's the takeaway: As the researchers note in their study, "The high proportion of men from western countries with concentration below 40 million/ml is particularly concerning given the evidence [that] this threshold is associated with a decreased monthly probability of conception." In other words, lower concentration of sperm could be the reason you aren't getting pregnant. Therefore, if you have been trying for a while, it may be worth it to get your man's sperm tested.
Levine adds, "Every man can reduce exposure to chemicals, avoid smoking, keep to a balanced diet and weight, and reduce stress."
Leah Millheiser, MD, OB/GYN at Stanford University, also shared actionable advice for men with Parents.com: "If you're thinking about conception, stop smoking, don't go in a hot tub all the time, don't put your laptop on your lap, as heat can negatively influence sperm count. Wear cotton, breathable underwear. Eat a nutritious diet." She adds that most lubricants will diminish one's count. One to try that won't: Pre-Seed.
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She advises couples after age 40 to have a semen analysis if you've been trying to conceive for 6 months without getting pregnant. For a younger couple, wait a year. "This should happen before any fertility help is sought," Millheiser says.
But ultimately Millheiser's advice to couples in light of this study: Don't panic. More research is most certainly needed before we worry that the human species is being wiped out anytime soon!