The relationship between male aging and infertility
For decades, scientists have worked to decode the mystery of infertility. Thanks to well-publicized research, it’s well-known that female fertility declines as a woman ages. However, it’s a lesser-known but also well-documented fact that male aging and infertility are also related.
Thanks to assisted reproductive technology such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), it’s now possible for men of virtually any age to father a child. Even men with very few sperm can become biological fathers through advanced sperm retrieval procedures, and men with no sperm at all can build families using donor sperm. Such advanced treatment options allow men and women to delay parenthood until later in life, a trend reflected in a 21% increase since 1980 in fertility rates for men in their 30s, and a nearly 30% increase for men ages 40 and older.
At our Las Vegas center for fertility, finding the right treatment begins with fertility testing for both partners, which can reveal whether infertility is related to a female factor, a male factor, or a combination of both.
Research into male aging and infertility
Decades of research support the idea that male aging and infertility are interrelated. Although decreased sexual activity and erectile dysfunction do impact the chances of conception, many studies show that they aren’t the only factors at play.
- In one 1976 study, there was a five times greater increase in time to achieve pregnancy for men age 45 and older, compared with men younger than 25, even when the female partner was in her early 20s.
- In 2000, scientists documented that conception during a one-year period was 30% less likely for men older than 40 than men younger than 30, even when adjusting for the age of the female partner.
- A 1995 study found that a man’s age was the most important factor in whether or not an IUI cycle would succeed. After six tries, men older than 35 had a 25% fertility rate, while men younger than 35 had a 52% fertility rate. In other words, male fertility declined by 52% after age 35.
What’s behind the relationship between male aging and infertility? Scientists believe that sperm volume, movement and structure all decline as men grow older.
Studies have suggested that sperm motility may decline by 3% to 12% over a 20-year span. Over the same number of years, the number of normally shaped sperm also declines by 4% to 18%. Time can also cause DNA fragmentation in the sperm, while exposure to environmental toxins can damage fertility.
Testing provides answers
The best way to find out if you are affected by male aging and infertility is to get fertility testing for both partners. Semen analysis is a simple test that can provide many answers about sperm health, helping your fertility specialist develop a targeted treatment plan to help you grow your family.
To learn more about male aging and infertility, contact us to schedule a consultation at our Las Vegas center for fertility.