While women have often been the focus of infertility concerns, a recent study has found that a man’s age can also have a significant influence on the chances of falling pregnant.
Men, unlike women, do not have a menopause or a predictable and detectable decline in their fertility. While female age is still considered the dominant factor in predicting (or explaining) a couple’s chance of conception, whether natural or assisted, this latest research is showing that a male’s age also plays a role in achieving a successful pregnancy.
The study of IVF treatment cycles from the US found a decline in success rates with increasing male partner age.
Investigator, Dr Laura Dodge from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre and Harvard Medical School, Boston, presented the study’s results this month at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Switzerland.
The study analysed all IVF cycles performed at a large IVF centre in the Boston region between 2000 and 2014, a total of 19,000 cycles performed in 7753 couples.
The study found that if the female partner was already 40-42 years old, the age of the male partner had no impact on success. However, if the female was younger, the cumulative incidence of birth (measured from up to six cycles of treatment) was significantly affected by the male partner’s age and was found to decline as the man grew older.
For example, in couples with a female partner aged under 30, a male partner aged 40-42 was associated with a significantly lower cumulative birth rate (46%) than a male partner aged 30-35 (73%). Similarly, in couples with a female partner aged 35-40, live-birth rates were higher with a younger man than with an older male partner.
Dr Dodge noted that even in natural conceptions, increasing male age was associated with a decreased incidence of pregnancy, longer time to pregnancy, and higher risk of miscarriage. The mechanisms, she added, were unclear but may include impaired semen parameters, increased sperm DNA damage, and epigenetic alterations in sperm that affect fertilisation, implantation, or embryo development.
However, in the absence of clear evidence of the mechanisms involved in what affects sperm quality, the best preconception advice was to maintain a healthy lifestyle, Dr Dodge said.
It is important to note that while the study’s findings have been presented at ESHRE they are yet to be peer-reviewed by other scientists and we should bear this in mind when considering the findings.
Recommended tips to boost sperm health
At City Fertility Centre we understand that you can’t always plan the exact age of when you would like to start trying to fall pregnant; however, we do recommend these tips to boost sperm health when you are trying to conceive:
- Quit smoking
- Restrict alcohol
- Limit caffeine
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a balanced diet
- Exercise moderately
- Keep cool as overheating of testes can affect sperm quality
- Take vitamin supplements
- Eliminate recreational drugs
- Keep sperm from becoming sluggish by ejaculating every two days when your partner is ovulating
- Reduce stress
- Avoid exposure to environmental toxins.
Making the right choices about your health in the lead-up to conception will help give you a better chance of conceiving and of quality DNA being passed on for generations to come.
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