Do Men Become Less Fertile With Age?

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Males usually reach their epitome of fertility around the ages of 22 and 29 years. Although some men still have children at an older age, it becomes more and more difficult, especially for men in their 40s.


What is Male Fertility vs. Male Infertility

Male fertility is simply when a male is not experiencing any trouble to impregnate his partner. At a more scientific level, a male is seen to be fertile when a semen sample contains 15 million sperm or more per millilitre. Optimal fertility is also dependent on other sperm parameters to reach the ultimate goal: to fertilise a female’s egg. Male infertility is usually noticed when a couple is struggling to conceive. When a couple has not conceived after a period of 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse, it is recommended that they see a doctor, as there might be fertility problems present in either one of them or sometimes both. 


At What Age Do Men Become Infertile?

Male infertility can occur at any age, depending on the causes thereof. A male can experience fertility problems at a young age due to genetic deviations in the production of sperm or even due to poor lifestyle choices. Although this can occur, it is more often seen that males of a higher age, usually in their 40s and older, experience fertility problems.


What is The Process to Check Male Fertility?

Men will undergo a physical examination to ensure that there are no abnormalities present regarding the reproductive organs and to ensure his vitals are within a healthy and normal range. Thereafter he will be requested to provide a semen sample that the laboratory will test, looking for things like the amount of sperm present in the sample, the sperm’s motility and structure and the total semen volume. When one or more of these parameters are out of range, it can be an indication of possible infertility.


Does Age Affect Male Fertility?

Yes. The natural and healthy process of a male’s body is to produce optimal sperm quality and a high libido within the age range of 22 to 29 years old, resulting in a peak for a male’s fertility years. Thereafter, the body will naturally decrease the secretion of certain sexual hormones, resulting in a decrease in sperm quality and sperm parameters.

It has been found more common nowadays for older men, 40 years and older, to have children. Although this is true, studies have shown that men of a higher age have more obstacles to overcome when it comes to fertility and having children. These studies have shown that men of an older age have increased time to pregnancy and that the pregnancy rates in older men have decreased.

Intercourse frequency and regular sexual activities can affect the time of pregnancy. The obstacle for older men lies in the fact that erectile dysfunction also increases with age, making sexual activities more difficult to practice. Luckily, there are assisted therapies that can help men overcome erectile dysfunction. Some of these therapies include vasodilators that fall in the class of phosphodiesterase inhibitors, like Viagra.


How Does Age Affect Male Fertility?

When assessing a male’s fertility, especially with increased age or with regards to fertility problems, the main thing to consider is male factor infertility. This term is used to encapsulate various variables, tested via means of a semen sample, that can affect male fertility including:

Decreased Sperm Concentration

Studies have found that the concentration of sperm present is usually less when comparing males in their 20s and males in their 50s.


Poor Sperm Motility

Sperm motility is a vital factor to result in a pregnancy, as the sperm needs to be mobile to reach the egg and fertilise it. Studies have found that with age, the sperm motility decreases. This can also be caused by age-related decline in the functioning of certain sexual organs.


Abnormal Sperm Structure

One critical aspect of this fertility decline is the structural changes that sperm undergo, which can severely affect their functionality and the ability to successfully fertilise an egg. As men age, there is a noticeable increase in the percentage of sperm with abnormal morphology. These abnormalities can include defects such as head, mid piece or tail defects which impair the sperms ability to swim.


Lower Semen Volume

Semen volume is seen to decrease slightly with age. This is usually caused by age-related prostatic changes including to the prostate gland, which produces a significant portion of semen. Over time, the muscles in the prostate can shrink or weaken, producing less fluid and the seminal vesicles, which also produce a substantial part of the semen, can also become less active with age.


Changes in Reproductive Organs

Studies have shown that a decrease in sperm parameters can be due to changes in the epididymis, where sperm are stored to mature, and other sexual glands.


Medical Conditions and Anatomical Changes

It is important to consider that men of a higher age have a higher risk of being diagnosed with medical conditions. For example, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can lead to infertility due to cell damage of the germinal cells. Increased age is also related to more sexual obstructions within the reproductive tract, making it impossible for sperm to pass.

Older men who are exposed to medical conditions, also risk the possibility of being treated with certain medications that can unfortunately have a negative impact on their fertility. An example of these medications is spironolactone, which is mainly used as an anti-hypertensive, but it also has anti-androgenic effects, that can lead to fertility problems.

A possible anatomical change that can happen with age, is testicular atrophy, or a reduction in the size of the testis. This can cause a reduction in Sertoli cells and Leydig cells, which are responsible for the sperm production process.

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