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Male Age

The issue of a man’s age and his fertility slips under the radar for most couples simply because female age is a well-known fertility issue. The effects of age on a man’s fertility hasn’t been a hot topic (especially for men with children), especially as some men have kids late in life (take a bow Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger.)

Nearly all men continue to produce semen and sperm as they get older, and men have had children in their 80s or even 90s. However, age affects male fertility, and the evidence is a man reaching 40 affects a couple’s fertility as much as a woman being 35. ii There are good reasons this isn’t better known:

  • Until recently, age and fertility have always focused on the woman’s age
  • Semen samples are usually only taken when a man’s fertility is a concern
  • The samples used in fertility studies usually come from young men iii
  • Studies using older men’s sperm come from fertility clinics iv
  • Information from fertility clinics isn’t accurate for the general population!

Male age and fertility

The connection between a man’s age and his fertility starts early:

  • 92% of fertile couples with men under 25 get pregnant in a year
  • 85% of fertile couples with men over 35 get pregnant in a year v

This relationship between a man’s age and his fertility continues as he gets older. When men aged either under or over 40 (all with partners 35 to 40 years old) and trying for a baby: vi

  • The annual pregnancy rates are 2.2 times higher when men are under 40
  • Not conceiving or there’s a miscarriage happens three times more when men are over 40
  • When the man’s over 45, the couples take five times longer to get pregnant

In real terms, the possibility of the “male factor” being part of a couple’s infertility rises  from 18% when he’s 35, to 28% when he’s 40 vii

Getting older affects a man’s semen sample in predictable ways:

  • Lower volume
  • Lower percentages of normal sperm
  • Less sperm motility
  • Poorer genetic integrity of the sperm

Reasons why age reduces male fertility

  1. Ageing affects the whole body, and noticeable changes occur to testes and other sexual tissue cells. This includes the prostate and epididymis, which causes lower semen volumes and sperm activity. However, the testes only shrink when men reach their 80’s (by 31%) viii
  2. The testosterone levels of 20-year-old men vary a lot, but all men experience a fall in their testosterone level by about 1% year after 30. The fall adds up, and eventually, men experience the andropause”. ix (Honestly, ladies – it’s a medical condition)
  3. Reduced testosterone levels cause a wide range of symptoms, including lower libido, lower bone density and less muscle mass. There is also an increase in fat mass (with central obesity), insulin resistance, emotional irritability, low mood and erectile dysfunction
  4. Simply living longer increases our exposure to damage or disease. Infections of the genitals or bladder, diseases of the blood vessels and the build-up of toxic substances all cause lower fertility: x
    • Infections in sexual glands significantly reduce sperm counts and affect 13.6% of men aged over 40, but only 6.1% of men under 25 xi
    • PCB levels reduce sperm counts and motility, and older men typically have higher levels of PCBs xii

Other issues for older men

Several other issues affect older men and reduce conception rates:

  • Men are usually less sexually active as they get older
  • Erectile dysfunction increases with age
  • Type II diabetes risks increase with age, and it lowers fertility
  • Cardiovascular disease risk increases with age, and it also reduces male fertility

The reasons why Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease reduce male fertility are:

  • 40% of 40 to 49-year-old men with Type II diabetes have low testosterone levels xiii
  • 35 to 75% of men with Type II diabetes have erectile dysfunction xiv
  • Erectile dysfunction is a complex condition linked to enlargement of the prostate, cardiovascular disease and depression
  • Erectile dysfunction increases with heart disease and hypertension treatments, and some drugs (e.g. beta-blockers) cause it directly xv

“Metabolic syndrome” (a range of factors that increase the risks of both pre-diabetes and cardiovascular symptoms) is a condition that many obese men experience. The changes in hormone balance, circulation and inflammation combine to lower fertility, and men tend to put on weight as they age. xvi

Improving male fertility

We appreciate this hasn’t been great news for older men, and while we can’t get any younger, we can control many things that affect our fertility. It’s not universally true, but for many men reaching their 40s coincides with a tendency for things to slip a bit, exercise less, and drink and eat more than is needed. In short, the very things that contribute to illnesses like diabetes and cardiovascular disease and also reduce fertility. Fertility is just one part of the big picture of general health and well-being.

Raise your fertility by completing the morefertile® male PFP form, and we can then give you specific advice on how you can raise your fertility, improve your health and the health of your children. We have additional information on boosting male fertility, and treating male fertility can push back the years as far as male fertility is concerned.