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Are Sperm Counts Declining?

Professor Allan Pacey questions whether sperm counts really are declining.  Are we really comparing apples for apples?


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0:02 a common newspaper headline or newspaper story is related to the fact
0:08 that male fertility is apparently declining that is related to
0:14 observations that have been made in laboratories, in populations around
0:18 the world
0:20 and observations on sperm that are ejaculated and comparing the data that
0:25 we get now with the data that we got 20 years ago or 30 years ago or 50 years
0:30 ago.  There was a famous paper published in nineteen ninety-two that suggested
0:35 that sperm quality across the world was declining and about the rate of two
0:39 percent per year
0:40 now that's worrying if it's true because it might suggest that our sons or
0:45 grandsons may be less fertile than we currently are and that we are less
0:51 fertile than our fathers and grandfathers.
0:54 However, that data has been criticized because it's actually very difficult to
0:59 be confident about the measurements that were made 50 years ago, whether or not
1:05 they were as rigorous as the measurements that we currently make. So
1:11 I'm of the opinion that the jury is still out about whether or not sperm
1:15 counts are declining because I'm not confident that the measurements I was
1:19 making 25 years ago were the same as the measurements that I'm making now. We've
1:24 changed our view, we’ve changed the tools that we use and we have changed some of the
1:28 technology that we've used.  So whilst the jury is out I would urge men
1:33 not to be too worried about this,  but just to be aware that there may be things
1:39 in the environment,  there may be things in their lives that are detrimental to
1:43 their own sperm production and I think perhaps the message is that if you're in
1:49 a position to try for a baby
1:51 earlier in your life rather than later
1:54 and also whilst you're trying for a baby
1:58 try and be as healthy as you possibly can,  then that's about as good as most
2:03 men can be in can do in this current period of uncertainty
2:08 there certainly is no evidence that man who want to have lots of children can't
2:15 have lots of children but there's a lot of evidence that men are choosing and
2:19 couples are choosing to have fewer children
2:22 the single biggest thing that inhibits men having more children is the age at
2:28 which they decide to become a father
2:31 and if you're in a relationship where the female partner is getting
2:35 older and you are getting older
2:37 that maybe there will only be time in your partner's fertile life to have
2:41 one or two children and not the seven children that were in your own family.
2:45 So if you want a lot of children the advice is to start sooner than you
2:51 think you probably should do and by that I mean starting in your late twenties and early
2:54 thirties rather than waiting to your late 30s early 40s.