How Age Impacts Male Fertility
If you're not ready to consider having kids but think you may want a family someday, you should know the basics about male fertility and the factors that could affect your chances of fatherhood.
Factors that impact male fertility
It's pretty well understood that fertility rates decline as women age, but aging men experience fertility changes, too, whether they know it or not. A man's age can make a big difference in fertility levels, and it's important to understand how and why.
But first, let's look at some of the different factors that play a role in and affect a man's fertility:
- Testicular swelling
- Hormone imbalances (particularly low testosterone levels)
- Genital infections and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and diseases (STDs)
- Problems ejaculating
- Undescended testicles
- Testicular blockages (preventing sperm from traveling)
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Celiac disease
- Steroids (and other medications)
- Prior genital or lower abdominal surgeries
Infertility or low fertility rates in men can also be attributed to many environmental and lifestyle causes: exposure to chemicals or heavy metals, drug and alcohol use, smoking, obesity, and frequent X-ray exposure.
Male fertility's peak
A study published in Reviews in Urology found that men younger than 35 years old had increased fertility levels, but after age 35, men experienced a 52 percent drop in fertility. So while it's possible to father children after 35, the likelihood begins to decrease, mainly because of hormonal disruption. As men age, their testosterone level begins to drop; in most cases, this begins occurring in their 40s. The good news is that this drop in testosterone is gradual—generally, testosterone decreases by only 1 percent each year—and some men exhibit high levels of testosterone throughout their life.
Fertility levels tend to vary for men by time of year and even time of day. In fact, male fertility follows a somewhat predictable cycle throughout the year. Typically, men are most fertile during the winter months, and their testosterone level is highest in the morning.
Positive trends in fertility rates
While fertility rates decrease as men age, in recent years scientists have found that more men in their 30s and 40s are remaining fertile longer than in previous decades. Since the 1980s, the fertility rate has increased by 21 percent for men in their 30s, and by 30 percent for men older than 40. In contrast, fertility rates have decreased by 15 percent in men younger than 30.
These numbers could be ascribed to men leading healthier lifestyles, discontinuing drug and steroid use, taking advantage of testosterone-boosting supplements and therapies, and using various medications to help with erectile dysfunction.
Boosting fertility levels in men
If you're worried about your fertility level or nervous about your chances of becoming a father later in life, you can boost your fertility levels by employing several methods, including maintaining a healthy body weight and diet, preventing STIs and STDs, reducing stress, staying active, and avoiding or limiting cigarettes and alcohol.
Talk to your doctor and find out how you can have your sperm measured and evaluated, which might help you decide if additional measures need to be taken to boost your fertility rate.