Sperm counts in the Western world are dropping. In fact, over the last 40 years it has almost halved. Between 1973 and 2011, the concentration of sperm in ejaculate has fallen yearly by an average of 1.4%, now sitting at 52% total. However, the exact reasons behind these low sperm counts are unclear.
Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist and lead author of the study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that whilst IVF clinics can help people who are struggling to get pregnant, they don’t really address the root of the problem.
This isn’t the first time a study like this has found such results however, this most recent study has been criticised. Some have questioned the laboratory’s methods or whether the participants were selected because they have fertility issues.
The study conducted by Levine was published in Human Reproduction Update. The researchers analysed 185 studies on the issue between 1973 and 2011. This led to a pool of 43,000 men to be analysed. They then pooled these men into groups depending their origins which included Australia, New Zealand, Europe and North America.
Other factors such as age and the time since they had last been relieved were also taken into account. This led to a decline from 99 million per millilitre to 47.1 million per millilitre for men unaware of their fertility.
Western men who had conceived with their partner saw less of a decline since the 1970’s, but data was unclear on this.
Professor of Andrology at the University of Sheffield Allan Pacey has stated that whilst this study was the best researchers had conducted on this issue, many were unsure if the trend was even real.
“If you are a guy with a low sperm count and you try for a baby when you are 21, you are probably not going to notice you’ve got a problem. But if you are trying with your partner when she is 35 then that’s when the heartache comes, because by then you have got low sperm count, you’ve got an older partner and you haven’t got a lot of time to try and fix it medically,” said Pacey.
However, Reproductive Toxicologist Dr Shaun Roman from the University of Newcastle, highlighted that, “It only takes one sperm to fertilise an egg and, on average, western men are still producing 50 million per ejaculate.”
“We are not in crisis yet.”
However, Levine said, “This is a classic under the radar huge public health problem that is really neglected.”
If in 40 years, sperm counts have declined so dramatically, what about the next 40 years?
While according to the ABC, Australian scientists believe lifestyle and diet could be behind it.
However, as pointed out by the study, there is still no definitive reason.